Zoot Suit Riots

Hour 5 Ashly Korby

Who were they?

The Zoot Suit Riots were a series of conflicts that occurred in June 1943 in Los Angeles between U.S. servicemen and Mexican American youths, the zoot suit consisted of a broad shouldered drape jacket, balloon legged trousers, and, sometimes, a hat. Mexican and Mexican American youths who wore these outfits were called zoot suiters. They were referred to themselves as pachucos, a name linked to the Mexican American generation’s rebellion against both the Mexican and American cultures.


The Start

Some pressures that related to U.S. involvement in World War II contributed to the racial tensions that made it all happen. Workers were needed in the agricultural and service sectors of the United States to fill the jobs. To those that were serving in the military. An agreement was reached with Mexico where temporary workers from Mexico were brought into the United States. Racial tensions, as Mexican American youths wearing the zoot suits were seen as not American because they kept ignoring the regulations. The Zoot Suit Riots are commonly associated with the Sleepy Lagoon murder, which occurred in August 1942. The Sleepy Lagoon, as it was nicknamed, was one of the larger reservoirs outside the city of Los Angeles. On the night of August 1, 1942, zoot suiters were involved in a fight at a party near the Sleepy Lagoon. The next morning one of the partying people, José Díaz, was dead. Several of the zoot suiters who were arrested. In January 1943, convicted of murder.

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The Riots

The riots began on June 3, 1943, after a group of sailors stated that they had been attacked by a group of Mexican American zoot suiters. As a result, on June 4 a number of uniformed sailors proceeded to the Mexican American community, seeking out the zoot suiters. What occurred that evening and in the following days was a series of conflicts primarily between servicemen and zoot suiters. Many zoot suiters were beaten by servicemen and stripped of their zoot suits on the spot. Or even burned them in the streets. One local paper printed an article describing how to “de-zoot” a zoot suiter, including directions that the zoot suits should be burned. In response, police arrested hundreds of Mexican American youths, many had already been attacked by servicemen. There were also reports of Mexican American youths requesting to be arrested and locked up in order to protect themselves from the servicemen in the streets.
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After the riots

No one was killed during the riots, but many people were injured. As the riots died down, Earl Warren ordered the creation of a citizens’ committee to investigate and determine the cause of the Zoot Suit Riots. The committee’s report indicated that there were several factors involved but that racism was the central cause of the riots. As well as by biased and inflammatory media coverage. He had his own conclusion, stating that racial prejudice was not a factor and that the riots were caused by juvenile delinquents