1968 February 29

Kerner Commission Report on 1960s Riots Warns: “Two Societies, One Black, One White”

 

After four summers of racial violence in American cities (1964–1967), President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders to study the causes of the riots and make recommendations for improving American race relations. The Kerner Commission (as it has always been known) delivered its report on this day, opening with the blunt warning that America was moving toward “two societies, one black, one white.”

The report is still a valuable resource on the riots of the 1960s, conditions in African-American communities at the time, and the state of police-community relations. “Kerner” of the report’s name was Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, chair of the Commission. (He later became one of several Illinois governors to be convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison.) President Bill Clinton attempted another commission on race relations in the late 1990s, but it was not regarded as a success. (See June 14, 1997).

The United States had a long history of urban racial violence in the twentieth century. See, for example, the 1919 Chicago race riot (July 27, 1919); the 1921 Tulsa race riot (May 31, 1921); the New York City riots in 1935 (March 20, 1935) and 1943 August 1, 1943); and the Los Angeles “Zoot Suit” riot (June 3, 1943).

Read the report: National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, Report (1968)

Watch a discussion of “The Obama Vision and the Kerner Commission”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHY-rZHIN1g

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