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100 years ago in Spokane: City to consider banning ‘The Birth of a Nation’ under new censorship law

Spokane’s official film censor would soon have to rule if “The Birth of a Nation” would be allowed to be shown again in Spokane theaters, The Spokesman-Review reported on June 7, 1916. The city’s new censorship ordinance contained a “race hatred” clause. (The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane’s official film censor would soon have to rule if “The Birth of a Nation” would be allowed to be shown again in Spokane theaters, The Spokesman-Review reported on June 7, 1916. The city’s new censorship ordinance contained a “race hatred” clause. (The Spokesman-Review)

From our archives, 100 years ago

The “race prejudice” clause in the city’s new censorship ordinance was about to get its first test.

“The Birth of a Nation” was scheduled to make a return engagement to Spokane, and official city censor F.K. McBroom was going to have to rule on it. The ordinance included a clause banning movies that have “a tendency to arouse race hatred.”

That clause was added by city commissioner J.C. Argall, who had a “known aversion to ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and all other exhibitions of this type.”

The paper noted that this film would likely “result in a clash of opinions” between Argall and McBroom. The movie was scheduled to return to Spokane in July, and the manager of the Auditorium Theater said he would “like some sort of assurance” that the run would not be cut short.

From the Shakespeare beat: An exhibition of Shakespeare “first folio” facsimiles, along with a collection of prints and other rare old volumes, was on display at the Spokane Public Library. Spokane city librarian George W. Fuller arranged for the exhibition to be shipped from London.

The exhibit included items that Shakespeare might have used for reference, such as an English dictionary from 1580 and a rare geography volume from 1552. This geography was believed to have been used in “The Tempest.”


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Then and Now: Union Station

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