Ed cetera

Join the informed, opinionated journalists of The Times' editorial staff in lively discussions at our blog Ed Cetera.

September 30, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Watch "Prohibition," a film by Ken Burns

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

It starts Sunday night, Oct. 2, on PBS-TV, and it is a wonderful piece of American history: Ken Burns' "Prohibition." Here is a preview from KCTS-TV, Channel 9, in Seattle:

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.

I thought I knew the story of Prohibition, but I didn't know as much as this. What was most interesting (besides the Seattle stuff) was the first instalment, which is about how Prohibition came to be. It's bound up in American frontier culture, the economics of frontier agriculture, in religious revival, in the campaign for women suffrage, in worry and resentment about immigrants, in the Progressive campaign for the income tax, and in the demonization of Germans during World War I. All these things had an influence on bringing about Prohibition.

This is particularly relevant to Washington state, and not only because Ken Burns tells the story of Seattle's "good bootlegger." This state embraced Prohibition early, by public vote (just as we did with woman suffrage), and when Prohibition ended, we became a "control state." That is, we set up a system of state liquor stores, which are a direct legacy of Prohibition. And whether we keep those stores is now up to voters in a statewide election that begins in a few weeks.

There are also many parallels between the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and the prohibition of marijuana now. Twice the repeal of marijuana prohibition has almost made the state ballot (in 2010 and 2011) and it is likely to make the ballot next year.

When Ken Burns was in town he said he'd never made a documentary that felt so relevant today. He is right.

See it.

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Sorry Dowdevil. Our archaic, self-defeating attitudes toward alcohol and drugs are completely bi-partisan. And it doesn't only affect us...  Posted on October 2, 2011 at 6:19 AM by Arthurstone. Jump to comment
Ken Burns is just one of a long list of reasons that I do not, and never will, contribute to PBS or NPR.  Posted on October 1, 2011 at 10:11 PM by girl power. Jump to comment
Does it feature Christine Gregoire and the Democrat controlled Washington State Legislature trying to continue the legacy of failure of Prohibition?  Posted on October 1, 2011 at 7:19 AM by Dowdevil. Jump to comment