Slow Burn: The L.A. Riots

Season 6: Episode 8


How Rodney King and the city of Los Angeles tried to reckon with everything they’d suffered.


Episode Notes

After the largest civil disturbance in American history, Los Angeles faced a daunting task. Dozens of people had been killed and thousands injured. The city had sustained more than a billion dollars in property damage. And the riots had exposed that much of the population faced grinding poverty and hostile policing.

Los Angeles would need to be rebuilt in more ways than one. The question was, what type of city did the people of Los Angeles want? And were they capable of building it?

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.


Berger, Leslie. “LAPD Disciplinary System to Undergo Major Restructuring,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1992.

Boyarsky, Bill. “Will the Tattered Bradley Coalition Fade Into History?,” Los Angeles Times, May 23, 1993.

Brownstein, Ronald. “Clinton to Press His Message of Rebuilding,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1992.

Carroll, Rory. “Rodney King: ‘I had to learn to forgive’,” Guardian, May 1, 2012.

Clifford, Frank. “Bradley Won’t Run for 6th Term,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 25, 1992.

Clifford, Frank and David Ferrell. “L.A. Strongly Condemns King Verdicts, Riots,” Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1992.

Clifford, Frank and John Schwada. “Ueberroth Will Direct City Rebuilding Effort,” Los Angeles Times, May 3, 1992.

Edsall, Thomas B. “Clinton Stuns Rainbow Coalition,” Washington Post, June 14, 1992.

Ferrell, David. “Press, Public Flock to See Justice Unfold,” Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1993.

Fiore, Faye and Frank Clifford. “Mystery Mayor,” Los Angeles Times, July 11, 1993.

Leduff, Charlie. “12 Years After the Riots, Rodney King Gets Along,” New York Times, Sept. 19, 2004.

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

Medina, Jennifer. “Rodney King Dies at 47,” New York Times, June 17, 2012.

Mitchell, John L. and Shawn Hubler. “King Gets Award of $3.8 Million,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1994.

Mills, David.” Sister Souljah’s Call to Arms,” Washington Post, May 13, 1992.

Mozingo, Joe and Phil Willon. “Rodney King dies at 47,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2012.

Mydans, Seth. “Rodney King Unsure on Beating Details,” New York Times, March 11, 1993.

Newton, Jim. “Federal jury finds that Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell violated beating victim’s civil rights,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1993.

Newton, Jim. “Koon, Powell get two and a half years in prison,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 5, 1993.

Peterson, Jonathan. “Rebuild L.A. Asks Residents for Their Input,” Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1992.

Peterson, Jonathan and Patrick Lee. “‘91 State Job Loss Was 6 Times That Estimated,” Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1992.

Rainey, James and Louis Sahagun. “Measure F Vote Called Just Start of Police Reform,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1992.

Reinhold, Robert. “U.S. Jury Indicts 4 Police Officers In King Beating,” New York Times, Aug. 6, 1992.

Rivera Brooks, Nancy and Henry Weinstein. “19 of 68 Firms Question Listing by Rebuild L.A,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 18, 1992.

Rohrlich, Ted. “Rodney King in Legal Quagmire,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 16, 2000.

Sahagun, Louis. “Riots Transform Campaign on Police Reform,” Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1992.

Simon, Richard. “Anglo Vote Carried Riordan to Victory,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1993.

Simon, Richard and Jim Herron Zamora. “Woo, A Bradley Ally, Will Run for Mayor in 93,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3, 1992.

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.

Weinstein, Henry. “Black Businessman To Manage Rebuild L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1992.

Weinstein, Henry. “Vast Expansion of Rebuild L.A. Adds Minorities,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1992.

Weinstein, Henry. “Ueberroth Expects Rebuild Effort to Be a Long Haul,” Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1992.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

“Rebuilding” L.A.

More on the aftermath of the riots, plus reflections on the making of Season 6.


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.