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7.23.15: Birth Of A Nation & What Happened To Surrender

Tom Gill via Flickr CC

America's first blockbuster: a depiction of the Civil War and early Reconstruction that featured  white actors in blackface, portraying feeble-minded or rapacious slaves, culminating with masked Klansmen galloping in to save the South. On today show, we talk about the film that set of a resurgence of savage Klan activity and has had an enduring influence on American racism and politics. Then, vexillogists, people who study flags. Here's a trick: if you want to design a great flag, start by drawing a one-by-one-and-a-half inch rectangle on a piece of paper. And finally -- what happened to surrender? It's becoming increasingly rare. 

Listen to the full show.

The Birth Of A Nation

It was one of the first American feature-length films, the first movie screened at the White House, and it continues to top critics' lists of all-time greatest movies. It also revived the Klan and the Confederacy. Josh Zeitz is a Politico Magazine contributor, where we found his article "How An Infamous Movie Revived The Confederacy." He's also the author of "Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, And The War For Lincoln's Image."

The Birth of a Nation


What makes a good flag? There's a whole field of study about flags: Vexillology. The word comes from the Latin word Vexillum (flag) Greek suffix -logia (study of.) Roman Mars of 99% Invisible has the story, and you can listen to it again at

Whatever Happened To Surrender?

Wars are borderless. Conflicts are ideological. Battles are fought door-to-door in cities, and gruesome videos posted online. And declarations of surrender are becoming increasingly rare. Carlin Romano is a critic at large for the Chronicle Review of Higher Education, and author of the article "Whatever Happened To Surrender?" Here you can also find a link to his book, "America The Philosophical."

Whatever Happened to Surrender?

Correction: July 24, 2015. An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that The Birth of a Nation was the first feature-length film; it was one of the first American feature-length films. 

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