Chicano teens wearing zoot suits in front of cell

American Experience “Zoot Suit Riot”


Airing March 29 at 8 p.m.

Los Angeles in 1942 was on the verge of exploding. Wartime tensions, an influx of servicemen, overzealous authority, rebellious youth and racial strife brought the city to its breaking point. At the center of the conflict were 50,000 sailors, itching to blow off steam before they shipped off to war, and Mexican American teens called “zoot suiters” for the baggy pants and long jackets they wore.

For the sailors and many white Los Angelenos, the zoot suiters had come to symbolize all that was wrong with the city. Vividly capturing the moment when tensions boiled over and the city erupted into some of the worst violence in its history, Zoot Suit Riots features evocative archival footage and interviews with a wide variety of eyewitnesses and historians.

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