Kerner Report

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Kerner Report

The Kerner Report was the result of a seven-month study by the National Commission on Civil Disorders, set up to pinpoint the cause of racial violence in American cities during the late 1960s. The eleven-member panel was better known as the Kerner Commission, after its chairman, Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed the commission on July 28, 1967, in the wake of large-scale urban rioting in the United States between 1965 and 1967, which resulted in several deaths and injuries as well as widespread property damage. The commission was charged with tracing the specific events that led up to the violence, finding general reasons for the worsening racial atmosphere in the country, and suggesting solutions to prevent future disorders.

The Kerner Report was submitted to Johnson in February 1968. It concluded, in part, that the violence had its roots in the frustration and anger of poor urban blacks concerning such problems as high unemployment, discrimination, poor schools and health care, and police bias.

Stating that discrimination and segregation were deeply embedded in American society, the report warned that America was "moving toward two societies, one black, one whiteseparate and unequal." The report recommended a massive national commitment to sweeping reforms to improve education, housing, employment opportunities, and city services in poor black urban areas.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the report "a physician's warning of approaching death, with a prescription for life." The prescription was, however, largely ignored. Many whites thought the report placed too much blame for the riots on societal problems and white racism, and not enough on the lawlessness of black rioters. Johnson accepted the report but did not support its conclusions, and few of the report's recommendations were ever implemented.

See also Red Summer; Riots and Popular Protests


Carson, Clayborne, ed. Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years. New York: Penguin, 1987.

Harris, Fred R., and Roger W. Wilkins, eds. Quiet Riots: Race and Poverty in the United StatesThe Kerner Report Twenty Years Later. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.

Karl, Jonathan, and Kevin Smith. "Thirty Years after Kerner Report, Some Say Racial Divide Wider." CNN Interactive. Available from

O'Reilly, Kenneth. Racial Matters: The FBI's Secret File on Black Americans, 19601972. New York: Free Press, 1989.

rene skelton (1996)