Jun 16

Zoot Suit Riots, Los Angeles 1943-World War II week by week

Sometimes people look back on a time, remembering the good and overlooking the bad.
While the nation pulled together to fight World War II there were some ugly events that showed America was still on the journey to the goal in the United States Declaration of Independence,”that all men are created equal…”
According to the PBS website American Experience, at the time Los Angels was a volatile stew of cultures. Mexicans fleeing revolution, landless dustbowl refugees, African-Americans departing the south in search of better jobs and more freedom, Japanese undergoing forced relocation, and the pressure of an influx of thousands of servicemen blowing off steam on leave.
Tensions were particularly high in segregated enclaves where out of town drunk servicemen were sometimes beaten when they failed to respect local culture.
Tensions rose between the communities and the Los Angeles authorities began to crack down on Zoot-suited young men who swaggered to the beat of jazz music.
Perhaps the style alone was enough to ignite anger for some. In an era of forced wartime austerity a proper zoot suit required double the usual quantity of fabric.
Sailors and Zootsuiters faced off in a series of fights as summer began to heat up in June 1943.
The police, many World War I veterans, were reluctant to arrest servicemen.
At one point a cartoonist dressed Axis leaders Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini in zootsuits.
Later a citizen panel would blame racism for the cause, the mayor pointed at white Southerners and juvenile delinquents.

UPDATE: The cartoonist was named Dorman H. Smith, he worked for the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Read more about him here.

Cartoon from June 16, 1943 comparing Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini to zootsuiters.

Cartoon from June 16, 1943 comparing Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini to zootsuiters.

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