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Editor's NoteIn September 1931, the seemingly paradisal environs of Hawaii were shattered by a racially-charged series of events that exposed the cultural resentments seething between colonial whites and native islanders. When Thalia Fortescue Massie, the aristocratic wife of a a prominent US Navy lieutenant, claimed she had been gang-raped by a group of native youths, local authorities immediately arrested five young men of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese descent--despite a complete lack of physical evidence. Though the defendants were justly acquitted, Navy officials and Massie's own mother, New York socialite Grace Hubbard Fortescue, decided to take the law into their own hands and murdered one of the freed defendants, Joseph Kahahawai, in an "honor killing" that was embraced by white Americans all over the US and earned Fortescue a mere one-hour sentence for manslaughter. Utilizing archival materials and interviews with Hawaiian historians, PBS' AMERICAN EXPERIENCE revisits the Massie affair that still haunts the local populace and prompted Princess Abigail Kawananakoa to declare the "travesty of a two-tiered justice system in the Islands, one for the favored few and another for the people in general."
Cast & Crew
|Mark Zwonitzer - Producer|
|Mark Zwonitzer - Writer|