When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series about the Central Park Five, has been nominated for 16 Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series, and best writing and directing nods for DuVernay. It also, according to Deadline, was one of the network’s most-watched series of the year.
This week, Netflix took out a full-page ad for the show, which may not have been notable if 30 years ago, then-real estate developer Donald Trump hadn’t also taken out a full-page ad in the same paper calling for the execution of the show’s subjects.
In a post on Instagram, DuVernay writes, “In May 1989, Trump took out a full page ad in the @NYTimes pushing the idea of the death penalty around the case of the Central Park Five. This week, 30 years later, @Netflix took out a full-page ad celebrating their story and thwarting his lies.”
When five teenage boys—Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise—were accused of raping a woman in Central Park, Trump paid for a full-page ad in the Times with the headline “Bring back the death penalty, bring back our police!” The six-paragraph editorial that followed, he asked, “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits?” All five of the young men were convicted based on forced confessions, and sat in prison until they were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002.
For DuVernay, the show has been a way to help make up for society’s crimes against the young men. In a recent interview with Deadline she said, “I feel that folks who care about black people feel that way all of the time. We feel that helplessness. We know this injustice has happened to these children; what do we do with it? So, the opportunity to be a part of something that I feel is restorative justice for these young men is huge for me.”
In 2014, the Five received a large settlement from the City of New York. As recently as 2016, Trump—a candidate for president—called the payout a “disgrace.”
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