Ken Burns: PBS Reverses Position; Will Include Latinos in Burns Documentary

Historians in the News

Today, PBS informed the Defend the Honor Campaign of their decision to reverse their position and include the Latino experience in Ken Burns' forthcoming World War II documentary, The War. In a letter released today, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger reported that, "PBS, Ken Burns and his co-director/producer Lynn Novick have decided to create additional content that focuses on stories of Latino and Native American veterans of the Second World War."

The PBS plan also included the following elements: -- The additional narratives about experiences of the Latino and Native American veterans of World War II will be integrated into the documentary, the DVD, the Website and PBS' educational outreach materials. -- A Latino producer will be hired by Burns production company, Florentine Films, in consultation with PBS, to be part of the production teams that will create the additional content. -- The War will premiere on September 23, 2007 (during Hispanic Heritage Month) as scheduled with the inclusion of the new content. -- Additional national programming will be aired on WWII that will include and focus on the Latino contributions to the war.

The Defend the Honor Campaign was organized in early February to coordinate a national volunteer campaign to pressure PBS and Ken Burns to include Latinos in the documentary, The War. Based at the University of Texas at Austin's U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project headed by Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, the leadership of the Campaign first met with PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger on March 6, 2007 in PBS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. At that point, Kerger informed the group that PBS would not be making any changes to the Ken Burns film because it was already completed and they did not want to interfere with his artistic independence.

"This is a great victory for the Latino community and for our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the defense of this nation," stated Rivas-Rodriguez, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin who leads the project that documents the Latino role in the war.

"When we started this campaign in February, many people told us that we would never get PBS to change its mind on this issue, given its poor history with the Latino community," Rivas-Rodriguez said. "But it is a tribute to Paula Kerger that she listened and took our concerns seriously, especially since this problem predated her leadership of PBS. She is a person of great integrity and we look forward to working with her."

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