Lolita Lebron was arrested in 1954 for carrying out an attack on the U.S. House of Representatives with fellow Puerto Rican Nationalists Andres Cordero, Rafael Cancel Miranda, and Irving Flores. Lebron was a strong symbol in the Puerto Rican Nationalist movement for being a female who insisted on taking full blame for orchestrating the action, rather than getting a lighter sentence as a mere participant. Most of the tape is made up of an interview with Lebron's attorney Conrad Lynn, who goes into depth about the trial, his defense of Lebron, the Puerto Rican Nationalist movement, and Lebron's personal life.
00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with static and a black screen.
00:27Copy video clip URL Color bars and tone.
00:31Copy video clip URL Title screen. The narrator gives a brief overview of the 1954 attack on the U.S. House of Representatives. The leader of the group, Lolita Lebron, has been in jail for twenty-three years. She and many other Puerto Rican Nationalist leaders we’re tried for their crimes in New York, including her fellow cohorts in the attack: Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, and Andres Cordero.
01:23Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Conrad Lynn, a veteran civil rights lawyer who represented Lebron in her case. Lynn talks about the defense he used for the case. “My defense was basically that this was a dramatic act of protest which was justified because of the illegality of the occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States.” Lynn talks about the Puerto Rican Nationalists’ belief system. “The Nationalists believed that the United States was illegally in Puerto Rico and they never recognize the sovereignty of the United States government. Therefore a nationalist such as Lolita Lebron, and specifically Lolita Lebron, even though she was suffering from lack of a job and therefore she did not have an opportunity to have food for herself and her child that was with her in Brooklyn, she refused to accept relief and therefore, life was very harsh for her.”
02:35Copy video clip URL Lynn talks about Lebron’s admiration for Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leader and figurehead Pedro Albizu Campos. He talks about the Jones Act and labels it a “legal enslavement” of the Puerto Rican people. He goes on to say, “The Puerto Rican people are an amalgam of peoples: Indians, blacks, and whites.” Lynn then states that the attack on the U.S. House of Representatives was a “reply to a national humiliation.”
05:03Copy video clip URL Lynn talks about Lebron and Campos and their ideals, specifically the notion of sacrificing for a greater good. Lynn talks about a Campos speech which exemplifies his belief in valor and sacrifice. Lynn then talks about an instance in which five Puerto Rican Nationalists sacrificed their lives for the cause. Lynn then states that most modern day Puerto Ricans believe that Campos was asking too much of his people. “You can’t have a race that consists only of heroes.” Lynn then states that Lebron represents Campos’ point of view and that she is a danger to “American homogeny.” “Lolita is such an inspiring figure, I can understand the government not being to anxious to let her out.” Lynn then talks about the U.S. government allowing Lebron to attend the funeral of her daughter in Puerto Rico and how the U.S. could have left Lebron in Puerto Rico, but that it was too much of a risk for fear of her presence invoking a Puerto Rican uprising. Lynn then states that Lebron’s convictions have not changed since being incarcerated.
08:50Copy video clip URL Lynn talks about Campos once being visited by a number of prominent American socialists and pacifists such as Norman Thomas and Roger Baldwin. Many of the leading U.S. liberals and pacifists wanted to paint Campos as “the Puerto Rican Ghandi.” Lynn then talks about the pseudo relationship between Baldwin and Campos and says that the Nationalists in Puerto Rico dispute his image. He goes on to say that the only prominent American ever to support Lebron was Waldo Frank. Shortly afterward, we see a brief shot of what is presumed to be Lynn’s wife massaging her head due to a migraine. Lynn then states that Waldo Frank said that Lebron’s actions were understandable and quotes Frank by saying, “An act of madness speaks truth.” Lynn then justifies the methods of the Nationalist movement by saying, “Historically, anarchism comes out of dictatorship.” He goes on to talk about Campos as a strong symbolic figure. American authorities asked if Campos would repudiate the actions of Lebron and her cohort, to which he responded that he would never repudiate the “noble act of a patriot.” After saying this, the authorities threw him back into prison without a trial.
16:17Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Lynn about Lebron’s contact with Campos. Lynn states that Lebron had been influenced by Campos’ thesis about the strong impression women can make on a movement, which he felt appealed to her coming from a culture that subordinated women. Lynn states that she and Campos had a “mystical linkage” with one another, and were both poets. Lynn goes on to talk about her talent for poetry and states that she was a “mystical Catholic.”
19:50Copy video clip URL Lynn states that Lebron felt that she was “destined by God to make a sacrifice for the Puerto Rican people.” Lynn states that she and her fellow attackers went into the House of Representatives believing that they would be killed during the attack. The four were unprepared for the fact that they survived.
21:05Copy video clip URL Lynn recalls Lebron’s actions during the attack. Lebron insisted that she take full responsibility for what took place, despite not actually even shooting anyone during the incident. Lynn also states that Lebron refused parole because of her fellow cohorts not receiving the same option for parole. “That’s why she has become such a symbol, because of this great sense of honor, this belief that she must sustain a certain level of values even at the expense of her own suffering.”
22:51Copy video clip URL Lynn reveals a tragic personal detail: Lebron lost her twelve year old son the day before her trial. Lynn recounts Lebron receiving the news and not sharing it with anyone until testifying on the stand. Lynn describes the feeling in the courtroom as Lebron talked about how much her son meant to her. Lynn states that even the judge was touched. “The judge was astute enough to see that this was a major tragedy and he would not let her be interrupted, and she just talked the entire day about this. What her life had been like with her child and the meaning of his loss… had a devastating effect on the courtroom.” Lynn takes a long pause as he continues to describe the day. “I suppose this made the defense less political because it took on a new dimension because of what had happened to her and the suffering that she had undergone in the United States, in Brooklyn, which came out in her testimony.” Lynn goes on to share one of the stories Lebron told in court. Lebron was dirt poor and had no money for food to feed her son. In a desperate attempt to get food, she lifted her son on her shoulders and searched the gutter for spare change. She couldn’t find any money and broke down. As Lebron cried about this, her son said to her, “Don’t cry, Mommy. Some day I’ll turn myself into a bird and I’ll tuck you under my wing and we’ll fly far, far away. … And it was at that point that the judge realized that this was not any ordinary testimony and he signaled to the United States attorney, whose name was Edward Lombard, to let her continue.” This lasts for several minutes.
26:47Copy video clip URL Lynn talks about the lack of press coverage of Lebron’s testimony because of the possibility of a growing movement of support. The interviewer then asks Lynn about his thoughts on the Nationalist cause and how it relates to his being a Marxist and Communist. “The nationalism of the Nationalists appeals to me, and it transcended my Marxism.” He then states that blacks in the U.S. are a “colonized minority” and that he believes in Communism because it represents freedom of all colonial peoples. “I felt that the black people in this country must win their freedom by ending their internal colonial status.” The credits begin to roll and the tape ends shortly afterward.
30:50Copy video clip URL Tape ends.