Slow Burn: The L.A. Riots

Season 6: Episode 4


Rodney King woke up in a prison hospital to find himself at the center of the biggest story in the world.


Episode Notes

Rodney King never asked to be famous. The video that captured his beating at the hands of four LAPD officers plunged an ordinary man into an extraordinary situation. So how did he navigate his new life in the public eye? How did he think about what had happened to him? And how would his struggles affect the trial of the four officers who beat him?

Season 6 of Slow Burn is produced by Joel Anderson, Jayson De Leon, Ethan Brooks, Sophie Summergrad, and Jasmine Ellis.

Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

Sources for This Episode:


Cannon, Lou. Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD, Random House, 1997.

King, Rodney with Lawrence J. Spagnola. The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption, HarperOne, 2012.


Dunn, Ashley and Ford, Andrea. “The Man Swept Up in the Furor,” Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1991.

Ford, Andrea. “King Lawyer Says Police Used Slurs,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1991.

Leibowitz, Ed. “Rodney’s Rap,” Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 28, 1999.

Malnic, Eric and Lois Timnick. “King Arrested in Vice Case, Then Released,” Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1991.

Margolick, David. “Beating Case Unfolds, as Does Debate on Lawyer,” New York Times, March 17, 1991.

Rapattoni, Linda. “Rodney King Files Civil Rights Suit,” United Press International, May 8, 1991.

Reeves, Phil. “Profile: An Icon, Anxious and Shy: Rodney King,” the Independent, Feb. 21, 1993.

Serrano, Richard A. “Report Tells King’s Fear in Vice Arrest,” Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1991.

Streeter, Kurt. “The Past Still Grips Rodney King,” Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2012.

Timnick, Lois. “King’s Damage Claim Is Rejected,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1991.

Wood, Tracy and Fiore, Faye. “Beating Victim Says He Obeyed Police,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1991.


[Fowler, Tim (Rodney King’s parole officer)—12/21/93 item A14953/CS], Lou Cannon Rodney King papers, Mss 258. Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[White, Terry (Deputy DA)—10/5/93 item A14974-A14975/CS], Lou Cannon Rodney King papers, Mss 258. Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

How Things Changed for Rodney King

More about King’s upbringing in L.A. and what happened in the aftermath of the beating.


About the Show

In 1992, a jury failed to convict the four Los Angeles police officers who’d been captured on videotape beating Rodney King. The city erupted into fire and chaos—the culmination of decades of unchecked police abuse and racial injustice.

For the sixth season of Slate’s Slow Burn, Joel Anderson returns to explore the people and events behind the biggest civil disturbance in American history—a story that’s still playing out today.

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  • Joel Anderson is a staff writer at Slate and the host of Seasons 3 and 6 of Slow Burn. Previously, he worked as a reporter on sports, culture, and politics for ESPN and BuzzFeed News.