May 13, 1985
Struggle in the Stockyards
'The Killing Floor' by Bill Duke
(English translation from the original French)
"He is a black man standing against other black men for the sake of unity among all workers, " writes history professor David Brody. "The tension expressed therein--between race and class--constitutes one of the great themes of American history, and it is the theme that is taken up and explored in 'The Killing Floor'.'"
It is explored with dignity and style, weaving fact and dramatic detail with actual film footage of Chicago in the late 1910s. The "Made in U.S.A." series has been seven years in the making so far and is backed by an unusual mix of funders: government, labor and corporations. This particular episode ends just after the bloody race riot in Chicago in 1919, when the man known in court testimony as Frank Custer disappears from public record. The stockyard unions don't really get underway, we hear at the end, for another 20 years.