James Earl Jones is among more than 50 Hollywood stars pushing Bowling Green State University to remove an actor's name in the 1915 movie "The Birth of a Nation" from a campus theater.
The Ohio College renamed its Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater in May, after student groups protested for their namesake Lillian Gish, best known for playing in the "Birth of a Nation". The 1915 film is credited with stimulating the Ku Klux Klan's American revival.
Indie Wire reports that Jones, along with Hollywood artists, historians, actors and directors, including Helen Mirren and Martin Scorsese, presents Bowling Green State to restore
James Earl Jones accepts the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theater in 2017. Jones is a long-time Dutch County resident. More: The Black Conservative Group Opposes Ben Carson School in Detroit
The petition, created by "The Whales of August" producer Mike Kaplan, calls away the Gish sisters' name "unhappy and unfair" , according to a copy of the letter from BG Independent Media. Dorothy Gish, Lillian's sister and the second name association of the theater were also an actor, but did not act in the "Nation's Birth". The Gish sisters were born in Springfield, Ohio.
While the letter acknowledges the racism of the "Nation's Birth", Kaplan writes that "Lillian was not a racist" and notes that she continued to star in more inclusive films.
The letter also claims that Lillian Gish's performance and contribution to film outweighs her main role in the racist film.
In response, Bowling Green State has said that it will not turn its decision to remove the theater's name, and that its duty to be interesting for an inclusive environment "outweighs the small part of the university to honor the heritage of the Gish sisters."
"The decision to remove the Gish name from the moved cinema was made with the values and best interests of our society in mind, and we stick to it," says Bowling Green's statement.
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