Ken Burns: The Central Park Five

Apr 15 2018

Ken Burns: The Central Park Five

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Ken Burns: The Central Park Five

Being from New York, this film immediately caught my attention. The award winning filmmaker Ken Burns produced this movie in order to share stories from various black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who had been wrongly convicted. These teens allegedly raped white woman in central park at the same time drugs and gangs grew to be the norm in New York City. This film takes place in New York City in the late 1980’s, the City was described to have a social mote that divided the danger from the safety, however crime was spreading at this time which was all throughout the city. The crack wars begun which meant teenagers were carrying guns which lead to the rise of crime rates.

Research says “The most endangered species in the late 1980’s was the young black male.” Real men who had been wrongly convicted share their teenage stories from this time. The police were after these black and Latino teenagers that had been minding their own business the night of April 19th 1989 in Central Park. “The only crime I committed that night was jumping over the Subway gate.” A false convict explained. A Latino male gets emotional while sharing his story from that night, after being chased by the police they called him an animal and beat him. Once he had been handcuffed and taken to prison the guards asked him what was on his face – he had explained a police officer had hit him and the fellow employees asked to point them out as if he was lying.

These teenage boys were allowed to call their parents thinking that everything that next morning would be okay. However, it was not. The kids were about to be released when the hospital notified the police station of the injuries on the female Central Park jogger. The police were ordered to hold onto the guys and wait for their paperwork as there had been a case of rape and assault on a woman in the park that night. These teenagers happened to be in the park however had nothing to do with this female jogger. It is not hard to understand why these kids were brought in however they needed proof to make this conviction.

After days of intense interrogation and beating, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam were tricked into saying they committed this crime after being told that admitting to it meant they would be able to go home. As they were not fully matured or developed they had decided they just wanted to be done and go home. After these five men served their complete sentences that ranged between six and thirteen years, serial rapist Matias Reyes admitted to the crime which was supported by DNA evidence. Although these men were proved innocent years later, they expressed the feeling of being portrayed incorrectly as well as feeling hated by what felt like to be everyone.

1989 News on The Central Park Five.

Interview with one of the Central Parkers involved in the “Wilding.”

I highly recommend watching this video as it is a prime example of North America in the late 1980’s – specifically the act of racial profiling leading to misconviction. New Yorkers were enraged after the closing of this case, feeling like New York City was no longer safe and that the death penalty should be enforced. Unfortunately, racial profiling in North America still occurs today.


Works Cited – All information gathered from the film as well as screenshotted images.


Daphne Peniston


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