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Historians have come to see the World War II home front as an important chapter in the Civil Rights Movement and the zoot suit – and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots – as critical symbolic moments in that struggle. While they were not organized with a singular leader, the Mexican American, African American, and Filipino zooters of the 1940s symbolized everything the institutionalized structure of the 1940s U.S. abhorred: class mobility, racial mixing, and most of all, an assertive presence. After all, who can ignore a group of men in brightly colored, ballooning suits or young women uniquely dressed in short skirts and tight sweaters? Zooters owned their identity. The question is, was that their motive? In this unit, students will decide whether the wearing of the zoot suit was, in fact, a political act.
(Developed for U. S. History, grade 11; recommended for U. S. History, High School grade 11)