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American Experience; Zoot Suit Riots


Packaged, Season 14 Master

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American Experience
Zoot Suit Riots
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered October 1988 As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation. Now in its eighteenth season, the series has produced over 180 programs and garnered every major broadcast award. Series release date: 10/1988

Program Description

In August 1942, the murder of a young Mexican American ignited a firestorm in Los Angeles. The tensions that had been building up for years between Mexican and white Los Angelenos boiled over. The press claimed that Mexican youth -- known as "zoot-suiters" for the clothes they wore -- were terrorizing the city with a wave of crime. Police fanned out across the city arresting 600 Mexican Americans. Seventeen "zoot-suiters" headed to a trial in which prosecutors had little evidence to present. Nonetheless, guilty verdicts were handed down to all. The tensions the trial inflamed sparked riots between servicemen and the Mexican American community that led to "zoot-suiters" being beaten and stripped of their clothes. Despite vigorous denials from city officials, a citizens' committee concluded the riots had been fueled by racial prejudice and encouraged by sensational news reporting and a discriminatory police department. Narrator: Hector Elizondo. Written, produced and directed by Joseph Tovares.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “American Experience; Zoot Suit Riots,” 04/06/2001, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 26, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D77A65B96F4D49DF867F862E26EA63AE.
MLA: “American Experience; Zoot Suit Riots.” 04/06/2001. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 26, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D77A65B96F4D49DF867F862E26EA63AE>.
APA: American Experience; Zoot Suit Riots. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D77A65B96F4D49DF867F862E26EA63AE
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