Fifty years ago, on Feb. 29, 1968, a presidential commission released a report on why there had been so many uprisings, civil disturbances, and riots by black citizens in cities across the country.
The Kerner Report blamed the civil disturbances on white racism. Its most quoted line is: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, and one white – separate and unequal.”
A new book by Steven M. Gillon details the history of the Kerner Commission and its report. The title is Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism.
Gillon joined Stateside to discuss the social context of the mid-1960s that led to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s appointment of the Kerner Commission, the President’s understanding of the African-American experience, and his reaction to the report’s findings. Gillon also spoke about the leadership dynamics within the commission, the report’s connection to an upstart conservative populism and “law and order” rhetoric employed by then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and the relevance and legacy of the Kerner Report today.
Listen to the full conversation above.