50th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report National Conference

Image of an American flag that is half in color, half in black and white

Conference Overview

Join us in Minneapolis on September 5-7 for ­­­­­the 50th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report National Conference, a major colloquium on race relations in America featuring urban leaders, highly accomplished scholars, thought leaders and historical eyewitnesses. Panelists will examine the meaning of Kerner—the landmark 1968 report that declared the United States was moving toward two societies, "one black, one white; separate and unequal”—through a timely and provocative analysis of persistent gaps in education, employment, housing, welfare and police-community relations.

Hosted by the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, the 50th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report National Conference will feature keynote speeches from former U.S. Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, the only surviving member of the Kerner Commission, and former Governor L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, the nation’s first elected African American governor­­­­­. 

Conference Publications and Support 

The ­­­­­50th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report National Conference will culminate in two publications: a commemorative volume of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, co-edited by Samuel Myers Jr., Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Susan Gooden, interim dean and professor at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University; and a special edition of The Review of Black Political Economy.

This event is made possible by support from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University; the National League of Cities; the Russell Sage Foundation; the Sloan Foundation.

Conference Venue 

The conference will be held at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The address is: 
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

The main conference meeting spaces, the Cowles Auditorium and the Mondale Commons, are located on the first floor and are fully accessible. 

Registration

Conference attendance is free and open to the public, but registration is required. 

REGISTER HERE

Location and Travel

Location

The University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus is located just to the east of downtown Minneapolis. The campus is divided by the Mississippi River into the East Bank and the West Bank. The Humphrey School is located on the West Bank, in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, one of the most vibrant and diverse areas of the city. It's easy to travel across the river between the East and West Banks via the Washington Avenue bridge—on foot, by bicycle, by car, light rail, or bus.  Here's a campus map.

Travel and transportation

The main airport serving the Twin Cities is the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport  (MSP/KMSP), which is about 15 miles from campus. Several options for ground transportation are available to and from the airport, including taxi, car service, Uber/Lyft, light rail, bus, and hotel shuttles. Find more information here

The Humphrey School is easily accessible by MetroTransit light rail and bus service. The West Bank station on the light rail Green Line is closest to the School and located on 19th Avenue. The Cedar Riverside station on the light rail Blue Line is a few blocks away. Both bus routes 2 and 7 serve the stop at 19th Avenue South and Riverside Avenue, approximately one block from the Humphrey School. Fares range from $2 to $2.50 for adults, depending on the time of day. MetroTransit has more information. 

If you're traveling by car, here are driving directions and parking information for the Humphrey School.

Lodging and dining

Lodging

The closest hotel to the Humphrey School is the Courtyard Minneapolis Downtown in the "Seven Corners" area, a short five-minute walk to the School. It's close to an array of dining options and shopping. Reserve your room here.

Numerous other hotels are in the vicinity. Here are some suggestions via Expedia.

Meals

Breakfast and lunch will be provided for participants on Thursday and Friday. You can indicate any dietary restrictions through the online registration form. Dinners are on your own. The University of Minnesota campus area and downtown Minneapolis offer many dining options. Here are some suggestions

Wednesday, September 5

Pre-conference reception: Invitation only

Thursday, September 6

All panel discussions will be held in Cowles Auditorium

Continental Breakfast | 9 – 9:30 am | Mondale Commons 

Panel 1 | 9:30 – 11:30 am | Urban Cities Today: Challenges and Successes 

Panelists will consider the primary challenges identified for urban areas in the Kerner Commission Report and discuss these issues from a contemporary leadership perspective. (Panelists TBD)

Russell Sage Foundation Press Conference | 11:30 am – Noon | Freeman Commons 
(By invitation only. Comments by Senator Fred Harris and other presenters TBD)

Break | 11:30 am – Noon 

Luncheon | Noon – 2 pm | Mondale Commons
Keynote Speaker: Senator Fred Harris, Member of the Kerner Commission, 1967-1968

Break | 2 – 2:15 pm

Panel 2 | 2:15 – 3:30 pm | Historical Backdrop of the Kerner Commission Staff and Technical Report 
(Special Edition of Review of Black Political Economy)

  • Gary T. Marx, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Richard Nathan, State University of New York, Albany
  • Rick Loessberg, Director of Planning & Development for Dallas County, Texas
  • John Koskinen, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service

Break | 3:30 – 3:45 pm

Panel 3 | 3:45 – 5:45 pm | Legacy of the Kerner Commission: Political and Public Policy Implications 
(Russell Sage Foundation Journal Commissioned Papers)

“How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Black Riots and Civil Disorders vs. White Rejection and Protest.” Authors:

  • William A. Darity, Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Keisha Leanne Bentley-Edwards, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Duke University
  • Malik C Edwards, Professor, North Carolina Central University
  • Cynthia Neal Spence, UNCF/Mellon Programs Director and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, Spelman University
  • Darrick Hamilton, Associate Professor of Economics and Urban Policy, The New School
  • Jasson Perez, the University of Illinois at Chicago

 “From Bakke to Fischer: Black Students in U. S. Higher Education Over Fifty Years.” Authors:

  • Walter Allen, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of California-Los Angeles
  • Daniel Harris, University of California – Los Angeles
  • Chantal Jones, University of California – Los Angeles
  • Channel McLewis, University of California – Los Angeles

“Whither Whiteness? From the Kerner Commission to the Post-Obama Era (1968-2018).” Author: 

  • Matthew Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut

Dinner on your own 

Friday, September 7

All panel discussions will be held in Cowles Auditorium

Continental Breakfast | 7:30 am – 8 am | Mondale Commons

Panel 4 | 8 – 9:45 am | Legal and Historical Complexities of the Kerner Commission Report 
(Special Edition of Review of Black Political Economy)

  • Peter Temin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Darrell Hawkins, University of Illinois, Chicago

"Historical legacy of the riots and the Kerner Commission." Author:

  • Jeannine Bell, Indiana University

"Race Craft:  The Difficult and Complex History of the Kerner Commission Report." Author:

  • Rose Brewer, University of Minnesota

Break | 9:45 – 10 am

Panel 5 | 10 – 11:45 am | Civil Disorders and Police-Community Relations, Now and Then 
(Russell Sage Foundation Journal Commissioned Papers)

“Change and Continuity in the Policing of Civil Disorders.” Authors:

  • Gary T. Marx, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Patrick Gillham, Assistant Professor, Western Washington University

“The Effects of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program on the Wealth and Labor Market Outcomes of African Americans.” Authors:

  • Jamein P. Cunningham, Assistant Professor of Economics, Portland State University
  • Rob Gillezeau, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Victoria

Luncheon | Noon – 1:45 pm | Mondale Commons
Keynote Speaker: Governor L. Douglas Wilder, governor of Virginia, 1990-1994

Break | 1:45 – 2 pm

Panel 6 | 2 – 3:30 pm| Sloan Panel on the Production of Minority Economists
(Special Edition of Review of Black Political Economy)

  • Cecilia Conrad and Margaret Simms, Black Economists at Stanford after the Kerner Commission 
  • Bernard Anderson and Nina Banks, Black Economists at Penn, UMass and Columbia
  • Gregory Price, Black Economists at Major Research Universities vs HBCUs after Kerner

Panel 7 | 3:45 – 5 pm | Urban Cities – Progress or Retrenchment?  
(Russell Sage Foundation Journal Commissioned Papers)

“Fifty Years after the Kerner Commission Report: The Role of Place in the Production and Reproduction of Racial Inequality in Los Angeles.” Authors:

  • Melany DeLa Cruz-Viesca, Assistant Director, Asian-Americans Studies Center, University of California – Los Angeles
  • Darrick Hamilton, Associate Professor of Economics and Urban Policy, The New School
  • William A. Darity, Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Paul Ong, Professor of Urban Planning, University of California – Los Angeles

“The Evolution of Black Neighborhoods Since Kerner.” Authors:

  • Marcus Casey
  • Bradley Hardy, Associate Professor of Economics, American University

“Racial Gaps in Detroit: Fifty Years after the Kerner Report.” Author:

  • Reynolds Farley, Dudley Duncan Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Michigan 

Background on the Kerner Commission

The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (often referred to as the Kerner Commission in deference to its chairman, Otto Kerner) was established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, after four summers of urban racial disorders and violence in several major cities.  The President tasked the commission with addressing three central questions:  What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?

After conducting a comprehensive investigation, visiting cities affected by riots, and consulting with scores of experts and witnesses, the Kerner Commission issued its report on February 29, 1968. The Kerner Report attributed the causes of urban violence to white racism, and the neglect and isolation it produced for African Americans. The basic conclusion of the report was, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

The Kerner Report outlined core recommendations for a National Plan of Action, with a goal of moving towards “a single society and a single American identity.” It called for the substantial investment of federal funds to assist African American communities and prevent further racial polarization and violence. The main recommendations included those in the areas of education, employment, housing, police-community relations, and welfare.

President Johnson never accepted or acted upon the findings of the report. Shortly after it was released, the nation was shaken by the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and riots and violence broke out in many cities across the country.