The Fire Last Time contains a wealth of documentary materials on the 1991 Rodney King beating and the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, which lasted six days and resulted in 58 deaths, 2,383 injuries, and nearly $1 billion in property damage.
Included are the records of the Independent Commission and the Webster Commission, which investigated the role of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) internal culture in the King beating and similar incidents and the response by the LAPD and other public agencies to the 1992 civil unrest. The most historically significant materials—including recordings, summaries, and transcripts of in-depth interviews conducted by the commissions and LAPD personnel records and other sensitive internal documents—were sealed until 2011 and 2012 per the terms of the original gift agreements. The previously restricted portions of the Independent Commission andWebster Commission records comprise 67% and 57% of the collections respectively.
Although the two commissions published detailed reports, these publications necessarily left out tens of thousands of pages of documentary materials and confidential information deemed too sensitive for immediate public release. The Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department (1991) and The City in Crisis: A Report by the Special Advisor to the Board of Police Commissioners on the Civil Disorder in Los Angeles (1992) comprise close to 700 pages. However, the two commissions conducted more than 2,000 interviews with L.A. residents, community activists, LAPD officers from divisions across the city, victims of police brutality, and representatives of public agencies as well as organizations serving L.A.’s African-American, Chinese-American, Korean-American, Latino, LGBTQ+, and unhoused communities. Only a small portion of these unique documentary materials were included in the commissions’ reports, and they provide complex insights into the troubled state of community-police relations in L.A. and other U.S. cities, underlying causes of the 1992 civil unrest, and the unfolding of the riots in real-time across L.A. neighborhoods.
Three additional collections held by the University are also included here:
Thanks to generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (https://www.neh.gov/), the USC Libraries digitized these collection for online public access.