Ken Burns’ Prohibition

A TV event that I have been eagerly awating since I heard of it last year starts the first of their three part series this Sunday October 2, 2011 at 8pm. It is a story of a driven minority sucessfully pushing their morality onto the majority. It’s Ken Burns’ Prohibition and I have been anticipating this for almost a year. Southeast Michigan was a hot spot for rum-running so the subject should be of interest to anyone in this area no matter one’s thoughts on drinking.

The seed for the series was planted when Ken Burns bumped into Daniel Okrent while he was doing research for his book Last Call so the series is based on much of the book. If the series is as good as his book this will be a great watch. The book is both informative and entertaining. It delves into the story of people coming together for a single purpose political action that has become the blue print of these groups ever since. It covers everything from the pre-Civil War beginnings of the Temperance movement that slowly built itself into a huge movement gathering strange bed fellows such as suffragettes, industrialist, religious groups and the Klu Klux Klan to the actual prohibition; the half-hearted attempt at enforcement, the loop holes and the end of the era with the passing of the 21st Amendment.

I hope this documentary is as good as Okrent’s book. One thing I can say is that the story of prohibition in America is an extremely interesting one and all the reviews that I have read say that he did capture that. There is even a Civil War style letter that is written to Julius Stroh. Below is a copy…


The thirteenth of May 1932

My Dearst  Stroh’s Bohemian Beer,

On this the eve of our march that I must feel will return you to my hand I feel the pangs in my soul due to this long fifeteen year seperation. Whilst the mere thought of a unsuccessful campaign tomorrow saddens my heart. And if I not return I will take with me the memory of your fire roasting flavor into the next life for my love for you is deathless.

But do not shed a tear for I have come to the conclusion that victory will soon by in hand but only our persistence will ensure the conquiring of oppression. When one resides in a world where beer is worth nothing and nothing is worth everything there is one perceptible course of procedure which is to fight.

With deepest regard,

Roscoe Kibbee

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