kerner commission report

The National Civic League is encouraging communities to take a renewed interest in the Kerner Report in preparation for the 2018 All-America City awards program.

Formally known as the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the Kerner Report, released initially in 1968, provides a useful perspective on race relations in the United States. Described in one review as “one of the seminal documents in understanding American race relations,” the Kerner Report was a government study about the 1967 riots and the reasons they occurred.  Its introduction warned then that the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.”

The 2018 awards program will recognize communities for their inclusive engagemOrder The Kerner Report and Work with us to Better Understand Race Relationsent processes, projects and community vision. The essence of the All-America City application is a description of three community projects with a clear community-wide commitment to inclusiveness, equity, impact, innovation, civic engagement and cross-sector collaboration. Applications are encouraged to include at least one project focused on the 2018 highlighted topic - inclusive engagement practices that promote equity.

Princeton University Press reissued the Kerner Report ahead of the report’s 50th anniversary. The new edition features an introduction by Princeton University history professor Julian Zelizer, who argues that the United States still faces the same problems – black poverty, lack of jobs, poor education, police brutality, and racial discrimination – that the 1968 report addressed.

A powerful excerpt from the introduction includes a call to action for every American so that racial division can be reversed:

This is our basic conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.

Reaction to last summer’s disorders has quickened the movement and deepened the division. Discrimination and segregation have long permeated much of American life; they now threaten the future of every American.

This deepening racial division is not inevitable. The movement apart can be reversed. Choice is still possible. Our principal task is to define that choice and to press for a national resolution.

To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.

The alternative is not blind repression or capitulation to lawlessness. It is the realization of common opportunities for all within a single society.

This alternative will require a commitment to national action—compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, new will.”

Resources: Lester Graham from Here & Now contributor Michigan Radio reports on why the Kerner Commission's recommendations were ignored, and why, in an age of "Black Lives Matter" activism, the report still resonates today.

Book orders: The National Civic League is taking orders for the book at a reduced price of $20 per copy, plus shipping, if ordered by March 15. After March 15, the price will be $25 plus shipping. The list price is $35. Send an email to Carla Kimbrough, NCL’s program director/racial equity, carlak@ncl.org with the number of copies you would like to purchase. She will contact you with the shipping costs.