Join the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for, Race & Inequality in America. The Kerner Commission at 50, a conference exploring race, segregation, and inequality 50 years after the release of the historic Kerner Commission Report.
In the mid-1960s, a series of violent police encounters with Black Americans sparked uprisings in more than 100 American cities. Shaken by the civil unrest across the nation in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders to investigate the immediate causes of the rebellions, as well as the underlying conditions of racial segregation and discrimination that gave rise to them. Headed by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, with Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York as vice chairman, the Commission issued its landmark report, which became commonly known as the “Kerner Report,” on February 29, 1968.
The Kerner Report, unanimously signed by the bipartisan and politically mainstream commission, was wide-ranging and dramatic, and concluded that white society had denied opportunity to Black Americans living in poor urban neighborhoods. The report offered both dire warnings along with a bold plan of federal action. Its most famous line, cited again by the US Supreme Court as recently as 2015, was: “Our Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” In its other most memorable passage, the commission said: “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”