This Month in History

KernerOn Feb. 29, 1968, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, commonly called The Kerner Report, is released.

In the summer of 1967, American cities experienced “racial disorders” that bewildered the nation. Among the worst riots occurred in Newark, New Jersey, and Detroit.

By July 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, headed by Gov. Otto Kerner of Illinois, to answer three questions: What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?

The response came in a much debated government study, commonly called the Kerner Report. While the report famously concluded that the United States was moving toward two separate and unequal societies, it also struck a hopeful note that the “deepening racial division is not inevitable. The movement apart can be reversed.”

Princeton University Press, which released a new edition of the report, said: “The Kerner Report deserves renewed attention in America’s continuing struggle to achieve true parity in race relations, income, employment, education, and other critical areas.” In the new introduction, Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University, argues the United States still faces some of the same problems raised in the initial report.

In an endorsement of the book, Thomas J. Sugrue, a New York University professor who specializes in 20thcentury American politics, civil rights and race, wrote: “First released in 1968, The Kerner Commission Report offered a blunt assessment of the United States as two nations, black and white, and generated intense debate. Recent commentators have referred to the report, particularly in light of intensifying police-community hostility and persistent racial inequality. Readable and timely, The Kerner Report is likely to find a wide audience.”

The National Civic League has the paperback version at the discounted rate of $20, plus shipping, if ordered by March 15. After March 15, the price will be $25 plus shipping. The list price is $35. To order, send an email to Carla Kimbrough, NCL’s program director/racial equity, with the number of copies you would like to purchase. She will contact you with the shipping costs.

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