Beacon Street Diary blog

Birth of a Movement: The 14 Beacon Connection

Many authors turn to the stacks of the Congregational Library & Archives for original source material. For his latest book, The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War, author Dick Lehr conducted research here in our reading room.

The records at the library were of critical importance to the work. Rolfe Cobleigh, editor of The Congregationalist newspaper, played a significant role in the 1915 campaign, working in solidarity with William Monroe Trotter as a leading white voice against the film. In 1915, Cobleigh wrote: "I have expressed my disapproval of 'The Birth of a Nation' on the grounds of falsifying history, in a riot of emotions glorifying crime, especially lynching, immorality, inviting prejudice against the negro race, falsely representing the character of colored Americans and teaching the undemocratic, unchristian, and unlawful doctrine that all colored people be removed from the United States."

Lehr's notes from the Congregational Library & Archives show that our collection was valuable to his research. In addition to Cobleigh's articulate publications in The Congregationalist, one of his writing laid out a specific sequence of events in 1915, clarifying the timeline for Lehr.

If you would like to hear more on the matter from Professor Lehr himself, join us for a free evening event next month.