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Ken Burns Film Review

Ken Burns Film Review

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Published by Kristen Cassels

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Categories:Types, Reviews, Film
Published by: Kristen Cassels on May 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Kristen CasselsHistory 360-097 Fall 201110/28/11Huey P. Long Film ReviewIn
Ken Burns’ America: Huey Long
, you get a glimpse into the wild world that was Huey
Long’s. We take a journey and experience tales that show us why he was one of the most liked
and most hated men in politics to date. The poor followed his leadership with unwaveringdedication. The rich despised his antics and political satires. In the beginning of the film wehear a speech given by Mr. Long. His unwavering stature and hammered first show he thrives onpower. He had a smile that could make him likable, and his charm was undeniable. Through therecants of fans and foes, the film then walks you through Huey Longs rise to fame and hisuntimely death.The amazing career of Huey Pierce Long began on a farm in Winnfield, Louisiana, August 30,1893. After public school education, his older brother Julius supported him for one year in NewOrleans to study law. He selected a number of law courses at Tulane University Law School, butprincipally studies on his own. In 1915, after only one year of schooling he convinced hiseducators to admit him to the bar. He then returned to his hometown of Winnfield, but movedhis practice to booming Shreveport. Politically ambitious, he gained election to the LouisianaRailroad Commission at the age of 25, and continued in that post for 10 years. He led successfulfights for independent oil companies, reduced telephone rates, forced pipelines to act as commoncarriers and prevented street-car rate increases in Shreveport. This successful campaign gaveLong his most enduring and useful adversary- The Standard Oil Company. (Cowan)
It operated, arguably, the largest oil refinery in the world at Baton Rouge, and it depended onlarge coterie of pipelines for supplies. As a new member of Louisiana Railroad Commission,soon to become the Louisiana Public Service Commission, he recognized that pipelines shouldbe a public utility, transporting all oil at equal rates for all refiners. (Cowan)Long made his first run for governor of Louisiana in 1923, standing for a stronger and moreactive government. He introduced the issue of free textbooks for school children, an idea foreignto Louisiana but already in practice elsewhere in the South. Though Huey ran third, the electionwas so close that his stature actually increased. The following year he was swept into a secondterm as public service commissioner. By then he was the odds-on favorite in the gubernatorialelection of 1928.Louisiana at the time held her accustomed spot near the bottom of the nation, not onlygeographically but in average income (39
of the 48), farm value (43
), and literacy (47
)(Van).When he won the gubernatorial election on his second try in 1928, he embarked upon a series of changes that went beyond reform to outright rebellion against the ruling class. No poor man everhated Huey Long from this day forward. (Burns) He raised severance taxes on natural resourceindustries to pay for schoolbooks for every child, regardless of whether they went to public orprivate school.During his term as governor, the state built over 2,300 miles of paved roads, 111 bridges, and, in1932, employed 10 percent of the men involved in road building nationally. He moved toabolish the practices of straitjacketing and chaining to introduce dental care at mental institutions(at one, he claimed,
dentist extracted seventeen hundred diseased teeth from inmates.) Long’s
appointee of head of Angola, still considered today one of the toughest prisons in the country,
instituted the state’s first prisoner rehabilitation programs. Long implemented an adu
lt literacyprogram in Louisiana that largely served the African Americans of the time.His conduct aroused such violent opposition that his impeachment was voted by the State Houseof Representatives. The Senate organized as a Court of Impeachment, adjourned when 15Senators refused to convict him. Governor Long took his case to the people, claimingpersecution by the Standard Oil Company of Louisiana in retaliation for advocating
“occupational” tax on refineries.
(Burns) He perfected his political machine and developed asorganization through which he blanketed the State overnight with political circulars. He hadnow established his own newspaper.In 1930, Long ran for the U.S. Senate and won. But a break with his Lieutenant Governor PaulSt. Cyr convinced Long not to take the seat until the end of his term as governor. It was not until1932 that Long went to Washington. But back in Louisiana, Long was crafting not progressivelegislation, but tyranny. In 1934 he sent two thousand state troopers into New Orleans tooverawe the mayoral election. He prevented a duly elected member of legislature from takinghis seat, and employed a subservient state court to defend the outrage. He re-organized thegovernmental structure of Louisiana. Laws were enacted that abolished local self-governmentand gave him control of the appointment of all police, fireman, and school teachers. He securedcomplete command of the militia, the judiciary, election officials, and tax-assessors. Nationally,he advocated the redistribution of wealth; and when the united States Senate rejected his taxproposals, he resigned his committee posts. He invaded Arkansas with a sound-truck to helpelect his choice candidate to the United States Senate. (Burns)

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