Part 3a: Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial of 1942 and The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943


Activities and strategies to prepare the learner before reading the text.

Prediction Activity

The Los Angeles press was hostile to Zoot Suiters, many of them Mexican American youth, and depicted them as hoodlums. The newspapers depicted them as hoodlums. With the nation at war, headlines about Zoot Suiters shared column space with articles on Allied advances in Europe, food shortages at home, and advertisements promising American victory.

  1. Read through these 1942 and 1943 newspaper articles to see how the press covered the Sleepy Lagoon Case and the Zoot Suit Riots.
  2. Read the following newspaper byline and answer the following questions in paragraph form explaining your answers. Share your answers with the class.
      a. What does this statement refer to?

      b. What is it based on?

      c. Is it unjust or just?

  3. Divide up into groups of 4 or 5. Have each group predict what is happening in the picture below. Write up your responses and share these with the class.

Anticipatory Guide


  1. Pachuco and Pachuca youth should have used Standard English and not Caló, their language style, to avoid problems with the law.
  2. Defendants have the right to wear clean clothes, bathe and cut their hair for their court appearance.
  3. Known gang members should be detained and placed in jail on suspicion of wrongdoing until the case is solved for the protection of all citizens.
  4. Final verdicts in the courtroom can be overturned with insufficient evidence, the denial of the defendant’s right to counsel and overt bias on the part of the judge.
  5. The sensationalist misrepresentation of youth and gangs is a form of “yellow journalism” that still occurs today.

Language Connection

  1. Divide students into groups of 4 or 5. Each group will conduct a brief analysis/investigation of a term or name that is important to the understanding of the text. The teacher will assign each group the following:
    • a. Jingoism
      b. Neologism
      c. Nativism
      d. Racial profiling
      e. Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee
      f. Xenophobia
      g. Yellow journalism
  2. Students will complete a poster that includes the following:
      a. Definition according to Wikipedia, the free online dictionary
      b. Definition according to the Zoot Suit Discovery Guide
      c. Five important facts
      d. Examples, graphics or pictures.

(Suggested Teacher’s Grading Rubric: Each section is worth 5 points for a total of 20. Neatness and creativity is worth another 5 for a total of 25 points.)


Janet Johns, Abriendo Caminos
Migrant Education, Region XI
Curriculum for the Zoot Suit Discovery Guide, 2009