On June 3, 1943, the “Zoot Suit Riots” broke out in Los Angeles, California. The riots were a series of conflicts between the white and Latino communities of the area.White military servicemen and police officers had engaged in sporadic conflict with Latino and African Americans in Los Angeles for years. The “zoot suits” popular with young men of color became a symbol of this conflict—many in the white community thought the flamboyant suits flouted wartime rationing of fabric. Many troops claimed to have been robbed and harassed by “zoot suiters.” Off-duty police calling themselves the “Vengeance Squad” joined military personnel in attacking young Latinos, beating them and stripping them of their zoot suits.By the end of the week, more than 500 Latino and African American youths had been arrested. The military confined all sailors and Marines to their barracks. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the riots in her weekly newspaper column: “The question goes deeper than just the suits. It is a racial protest.”Although the Zoot Suit Riots were quelled fairly quickly in Los Angeles, the “racial protest” they inspired did not fade. Protests spread to New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Civil rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X took lessons they learned during the Zoot Suit Riots and used them to organize their communities.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry arrest Verb
to take into legal custody.
barracks Plural Noun
building for housing soldiers.
civil rights Plural Noun
set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.
Eleanor Roosevelt Noun
(1884-1962) American diplomat and first lady (wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt).
to interact with.
first lady Noun
wife of the president of the United States.
flashy, colorful, and bold.
to mock or treat with distain.
to disturb or torment.
to influence to act.
having to do with people and culture who trace their ancestry to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Latin America.
local, state, or national government organization for law enforcement.
protest noun, verb
demonstration against a policy or action.
to satisfy, subdue, or put an end to.
to supply people with a fixed amount of food or another good or service.
large, violent, public disturbance.
occasional and happening in isolated instances.
something used to represent something else.
revenge, or the act of harming a person who has harmed you.
zoot suit Noun
man's suit with baggy, tightly cuffed, pleated pants; an oversize jacket with broad, padded shoulders; a long watch chain; and a porkpie hat.