American Experience - Season 21, Episode 4 - Rotten Tomatoes

A Class Apart

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Episode Info

A small town murder sparks landmark civil rights case, and the filmmakers of American Experience detail how one simple act of violence can affect the lives and legal standings of Americans from coast to coast by investigating the obscure court case that eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Edna, Texas: 1951. A field hand named Pete Hernandez was having drinks in a gritty cantina when an argument with his boss erupted into violence. When the dust settled, Hernandez's employer was dead. A court battle entitled Hernandez v. Texas ensued, in which a team of Mexican-American lawyers boldly stood up against Jim Crow-style discrimination against Mexican-Americans. The strategy of the prosecution was to prove that Mexican-Americans did not properly fit into a legal structure that only recognized blacks and whites. Mexican-Americans were, "a class apart," and as such would not be afforded the same rights as their fellow countrymen. In this documentary, filmmakers place the story of Hernandez v. Texas and its' central players within the context of history, examining the history of Latinos in American during an era of profound change.

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