The Birth of an Answer: An Exploration of African-American Media Responses – September 18, 2015 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia 2015 marks a unique moment in American media history as the nation reflects upon D.W. Griffith’s release of Birth of a Nation.

Regarded as a landmark achievement in narrative film style and storytelling, it was the first film to be screened in the White House and is often lauded as one of the greatest films in the history of American cinema. However, the film includes decidedly negative depictions of African Americans by white’s in blackface. At the same time it celebrated the rise of the Klu Klax Klan and is often credited with inspiring a rise in the second wave of the Klan. The film inspired a substantial response by African Americans across the country including protests by the NAACP and several cities banning the film. This included attempts by a number of Norfolk citizens to stop screenings of the film. The film inspired a strong set of responses by African American filmmakers including two specific films, John W. Noble’s The Birth of a Race (1918) and Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1919), the latter of which was positioned as a response by the African-American community.

It is with this in mind that we are assembling a one-day conference where we hope to explore these and other responses of African-American made media to systematic media ignorance and misrepresentation.

Examples of this could include but are not limited to the:

  • Use of social media to respond moments of crisis.
  • Employment of music genres such as hip-hop and R&B as an accessible and important means of creating counter public forms of expression and pleasure.
  • Multiple histories of African-American media ownership.
  • History of specific forms and forums of media representation specifically dedicated to resisting specific stereotypes and narrative positions.
  • Important moments of African-American produced film and television.
  • History of African-American media distribution, exhibition and reception.
  • Investigation into African-American investment in digital technologies such as websites, blogs, social networks and podcasts and their discursive/representational impacts.
  • Unique convergence of African-American forms and traditions in film, television, musical recordings and online spaces.
  • Systematic ignorance of mainstream media groups such as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the controversy over the group’s lack of diversity.

We would like submissions from scholars of all levels (including undergraduate and graduate) and are not interested in any specific media niche. Instead, we are interested in creating conversations around a variety of media in order to better facilitate the understanding that answers to the African-American struggle to fully participate in the public sphere of debate and entertainment.

The one-day conference will be part of a larger celebration including screenings and prominent speakers.

Paper proposals should be no more than 250 words. Please include bio no more than 100 words.

All proposals should be due April 30th, 2015 and addressed to Dr. Tim Anderson at