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; and 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.  To request disability accommodations, please contact hhhevent@umn.edu.


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


Location and Travel


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


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.


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

Registration and Continental Breakfast | 8 – 9 am | Mondale Commons 

Welcome and Opening Remarks | 9– 9:30 am | Mondale Commons 

  • Samuel Myers  Jr., Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • Susan Gooden, Interim Dean and Professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Sheldon Danziger, President, Russell Sage Foundation
  • Elizabeth Boylan, Director, STEM Higher Education, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

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. 

  • Leon T. Andrews, director, Race, Equity and Leadership, National League of Cities
  • Sharon Sayles Belton, former mayor, Minneapolis
  • Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor, Gary, Indiana
  • Jake Spano, mayor, St. Louis Park, Minnesota

Break | 11:30 am – Noon 

Luncheon | Noon – 2 pm | Mondale Commons
Keynote Speaker: Fred Harris, senator from Oklahoma, 1964-1973; 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, Featuring Former Staff Members and Research Assistants of the Commission
Moderator: Rhonda Sharpe, editor of Review of Black Political Economy; founder and president, Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race

Papers and Panelists:

  • "Race Craft: The Difficult and Complex History of the Kerner Commission Report" 
      Rose Brewer, professor of Afro-American & African Studies, University of Minnesota
  • "Reflections on the Kerner Commission by Another Old White Male"
     David Chambers, Wade H. McCree Jr. Collegiate Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Michigan
  • "Inside the Tent: Some Reflections on Working for the 1967 Kerner Commission" 
     Glenn Muschert, professor of sociology and social justice studies; faculty affiliate, comparative media studies, Miami University
     (Author: Gary T. Marx)
  • "Why Wouldn't I Have Asked Him? Herbert Gans, Chapter 9 of the Kerner Report, and the Resolution of a Dilemma"
    Rick Loessberg, director of planning and development, Dallas County, Texas

Break | 3:30 – 3:45 pm

Panel 3 | 3:45 – 5:45 pm | Legacy of the Kerner Commission: Political and Public Policy Implications 
Moderator: Grant Rissler, assistant director, Office of Public Policy, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs 

Papers and Panelists:

  • "How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? The Missing Kerner Commission Report" 
      Keisha Leanne Bentley-Edwards, assistant professor of medicine, Duke University
     (Co-authors: Malik Chaka Edwards, Cynthia Neal Spence, William A. Darity Jr., Darrick Hamilton, and Jasson Perez)
  •  "From Bakke to Fischer: African American Students in US Higher Education over Forty Years" 
      Walter Allen, distinguished professor of education, University of California–Los Angeles
     (Co-authors: Channel McLewis, Chantal Jones, and Daniel Harris)
  • "Whither Whiteness? The Racial Logics of the Kerner Report and Modern White Space"
      Matthew Hughey, associate professor of sociology, University of Connecticut
  • "Measuring the Distance: The Legacy of the Kerner Report"
     John Koskinen, retired commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
     Rick Loessberg, director of planning and development, Dallas County, Texas

Dinner on your own 

Friday, September 7

All panel discussions will be held in Cowles Auditorium

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

Panel 4 | 8:30 – 9:45 am | Legal and Historical Complexities of the Kerner Commission Report 
Moderator: Rhonda Sharpe, editor of Review of Black Political Economy; founder and president, Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race

Papers and Panelists:

  • "Tracing Historical Practices of Administrative Discretion to Contemporary Inequities"
    Brandi Blessett, associate professor, University of Cincinnati
  • "Organizational Impacts on Police-Community Relations" 
     Andrea Headley, post-doctoral fellow, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Break | 9:45 – 10 am

Panel 5 | 10 – 11:45 am | Policing, Law, and Communities 
Moderator: Jay Albanese, professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs 

Papers and Panelists:

  • "Changes in the Policing of Civil Disorders Since the Kerner Report: The Police Response to Ferguson, August 2014,  and Some Implications for the Twenty-First Century"
    Patrick Gillham, assistant professor, Western Washington University
    (Co-author: Gary T. Marx)
  • "The Effects of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program on the Riots and the Wealth of African Americans"
      Jamein P. Cunningham, assistant professor of economics, Portland State University
     (Co-author: Rob Gillezeau)
  • "Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report"
     Alan Curtis, president and CEO, Eisenhower Foundation

Break | 11:45 am – noon

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

Break | 1:45 – 2 pm

Panel 6 | 2 – 3:30 pm| Special Sloan Panel on the Production of Minority Economists 
Moderator: Samuel Myers Jr., Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice, Humphrey School of Public Affairs 

Papers and Panelists:

  • "Diversity in the Dismal Science: The Stanford Experience" 
    Margaret Simms, nonresident fellow, Urban Institute
    (Co-author: Cecilia Conrad)
  • "Black Economists at Major Research Universities vs HBCUs after Kerner"
    Gregory Price, professor of economics, Morehouse College
  • "African Americans at Michigan After the Kerner Commission Report"
    Charles Betsey, professor emeritus of economics and former co-director, Center on Race and Wealth, Howard University 

Break | 3:30 – 3:45 pm

Panel 7 | 3:45 – 5 pm | Urban Cities – Progress or Retrenchment?  
Moderator: Elsie Harper-Anderson, associate professor,  L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs 

Papers and Panelists:

  • "Fifty Years after the Kerner Commission Report:  Place, Housing, and Racial Wealth Inequality in Los Angeles"
    Andre Comandon, doctoral candidate, University of California – Los Angeles
    (Co-authors: Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, Paul M. Ong, William A. Darity Jr., and Darrick Hamilton)
  • "The Evolution of Black Neighborhoods Since Kerner"
    Bradley Hardy, associate professor of economics, American University
    (Co-author: Marcus D. Casey)
  • "Detroit Fifty Years After the Kerner Report: What Has Changed, What Has Not, and Why"
    Reynolds Farley, Dudley Duncan Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Michigan 

Closing Remarks | 5 – 5:15 pm | Cowles Auditorium           

  • Samuel Myers Jr., Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Susan Gooden, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Keynote speakers and conference co-chairs

Keynote Speakers:

A head shot of former US Senator Fred Harris, last living member of the Kerner CommissionFRED HARRIS, former U.S. senator, is a widely published author and professor emeritus of political science at the University of New Mexico, where he continues some teaching in the UNM Fred Harris Congressional Internship Program. He was twice elected from Oklahoma as a progressive and reform-minded U.S. senator (1964-1971) and is the only surviving member of the Kerner Commission.

Harris has been a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico, a visiting professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónima de México, and has taught and lectured extensively throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia. He has produced 20 nonfiction books on politics, government, and policy—including, as co-editor (with Alan Curtis), “Healing Our Divided Society,” a 50th anniversary update of the 1968 Kerner Report.

Head shot of former Virginia governor Douglas WilderL. DOUGLAS WILDER became the first African American to be elected governor in the United States, leading Virginia from 1990-94. As the 66th governor of Virginia, he was commended for his sound fiscal management and balancing of the state budget during difficult economic times. Financial World magazine ranked Virginia as the Best Managed State in the U.S. for two consecutive years under his administration.

He served as lieutenant governor from 1986-90 and mayor of Richmond from 2004-08. Governor Wilder is a distinguished professor at the Wilder School. He is also the driving force for establishing a National Slavery Museum.

Conference Co-Chairs:

Portrait of Samuel L. Myers, JuniorSAMUEL L. MYERS JR., PhD, is the director and professor, Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. He is an often-cited Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained economist who has published more than 100 studies on applied microeconomic and policy issues in leading economics and interdisciplinary journals and in books and monographs.

He is a pioneer in the use of applied econometric techniques to examine racial disparities in crime, to detect illegal discrimination in home mortgage lending and consumer credit markets, to assess the impacts of welfare on family stability, to evaluate the effectiveness of government transfers in reducing poverty, and to detect disparities and discrimination in government contracting. He is an expert on conducting disparity studies for state and local governments and analyzes race-neutral public procurement and contracting policies. 

He has served as an expert witness in the groundbreaking federal cases of GEOD vs New Jersey Transit (3rd Circuit Court of Appeals) and Geyer vs. MnDOT (8th Circuit Court of Appeals). In 2008-09 he was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, where he conducted research on disability policies in the United States vs. China.

Head shot of Susan Gooden, interim dean of the Wilder School of Government and Public AffairsSUSAN T. GOODEN, PhD, is the interim dean and professor of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is an elected fellow of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Public Administration and is past president of the American Society for Public Administration. Her books include Why Research Methods Matter (2018, Melvin and Leigh), Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government (2014, Routledge), and Cultural Competency for Public Administrators (2012, Routledge). Her research has been published in several journals including Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and American Review of Public Administration.

She has received several awards and honors including the VCU University Distinguished Faculty Service Award and Best Academic Paper Award, Northeast Conference on Public Administration, both in 2016, and the Jewel Prestage Pioneer Award (2015). She was appointed to the Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation, the accrediting arm of the Network of Associated Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration. She has previously served as an elected member to the national policy council of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. In 2016, she was appointed to the Virginia Community College System board by Governor Terence McAuliffe.

She received an AS  in Natural Science from Patrick Henry Community College, a BA in English from Virginia Tech, and an MA in Political Science from Virginia Tech. She received her PhD from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. 

Participant bios

Jay Albanese, PhD, is a professor of criminal justice at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. He was chief of the National Institute of Justice's International Center, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. He is a past president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, former executive director of the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime and served on the executive board of the American Society of Criminology.

Walter R. Allen, PhD, is the Allan Murray Cartter Professor in Higher Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is UCLA Distinguished Professor of Education, Sociology and African American Studies, as well as Director of CHOICES, a longitudinal study of barriers to college access in the US and internationally. His general research studies social disparities by race, ethnicity, gender, and economic class in higher education, health, work, family and community.

Leon T. Andrews Jr. was the inaugural director for Race, Equity And Leadership at the National League of Cities and currently serves as board chair of the National Recreation and Parks Association. He has an extensive background working in government, the community, the private sector, and academia for the last 25 years. He serves on a number of national and local boards, including chair of ChangeLab Solutions, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the National Network for Youth.

Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, PhD, is an assistant professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine and the associate director of Research for the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity. She is a developmental psychologist who takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying cultural strengths, racism, gender and social policies for their impact on social, health, and educational outcomes for Black families and communities.

Charles Betsey, PhD, earned his BA in economics and Spanish and his doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan. Professor emeritus of economics, he served as co-director of the Howard University Center on Race and Wealth from 2007 to 2017. From 2009 to 2012 he served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research and publications cover various topics in labor economics and public policy. His recent research includes a study of the impact of economic growth on occupational segregation.

Brandi Blessett, PhD, is an associate professor and MPA director at the University of Cincinnati. Her work is anchored in issues related to social justice, cultural competence, and administrative responsibility. She examines the role public institutions and administrative actions play in facilitating disadvantage for vulnerable communities. Dr. Blessett hopes her work will lead to better engagement between public administrators and the diverse constituents they serve.

Laura Bloomberg, PhD, is dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Previously she held the position of associate dean for four years. Her research and published works focus on community-based leadership, program evaluation, public value creation, cross-cultural dialogue and educational policy. She has consulted on education policy initiatives in cities and countries around the globe, and has worked with several states, federal agencies, and indigenous nations to improve civic leadership and education systems across the United States. Bloomberg holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from St. Cloud State (Minnesota) University, master's degrees in psychometrics and educational psychology from Cornell University, and a PhD in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.

Elizabeth Boylan, PhD, directs the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's programs in STEM Higher Education, and is responsible for the Sloan Minority PhD Program and the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership that carry forward the Foundation's long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within STEM. Her prior positions include provost and dean of the faculty at Barnard College and associate provost at Queens College/CUNY, where she was also a tenured member of the biology faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. A specialist in hormonal carcinogenesis, Boylan earned her PhD from Cornell University and her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College. 

Rose M. Brewer, PhD, is an activist scholar and The Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor and past chairperson of the Department of African American & African Studies, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Brewer publishes extensively on Black feminism, political economy, social movements, race, class, gender and social change. Her books include The Color of Wealth; the forthcoming co-edited volume, Rod Bush: Lessons from a Black Radical Scholar on Liberation, Love, and Justice; The U.S. Social Forum: Perspectives of a Movement and Is Academic Feminism Dead?

David Chambers served on the staff of the Kerner Commission as special assistant to the late David Ginsburg, the Commission’s executive director. He later taught for nearly forty years on the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, retiring a dozen years ago as the Wade H. McCree Jr., Collegiate Professor of Law. He now lives in Vermont with his husband, John Crane, writing fiction.

Andre Comandon is a doctoral candidate in the department of urban planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. His research examines the different forms of segregation that arise internationally and seeks to advance comparative perspectives. He is currently focusing on how diversity is changing the dynamics of segregation and political processes in the context of Los Angeles. He is a research affiliate with the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.

Jamein P. Cunningham, PhD, is an assistant professor in the economics department at the University of Memphis. He completed his PhD in economics at the University of Michigan, where he was a Population Studies Center graduate trainee and the recipient of the Rackham Merit Fellowship and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute in Child Health and Development Fellowship. His primary areas of research are in the economics of crime, law, and social capital.

Alan Curtis, PhD, is the president and CEO of the Eisenhower Foundation. He was the executive director of President Carter's Interagency Urban and Regional Policy Group, served as urban policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and later administered the $43 million employment and crime prevention demonstration program in public housing that was part of President Carter’s National Urban Policy. Previously he was co-director of the Crimes of Violence Task Force of President Johnson's National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence.

Sheldon Danziger, PhD, is president of the Russell Sage Foundation. He is also Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Previously, he was director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a John Kenneth Galbraith Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and was a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. He received his BA from Columbia University and his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Reynolds Farley, PhD, is a research scientist at the Population Studies Center and the Otis Dudley Duncan Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on current population trends in Michigan and the United States with an emphasis on racial differences. He participated in the 1980, 1990 and 2000 census research series sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation, and directed the University of Michigan’s Detroit Area Study three times. He has written extensively about racial and economic trends in the Detroit area.

Karen Freeman-Wilson has been the mayor of her hometown of Gary, Indiana, since January 2012, becoming the first woman to lead Gary and the first African American female mayor in Indiana. She has served in the public arena most of her professional life, having previously served as the Indiana attorney general, the director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, and the presiding judge of the Gary City Court. She is also a leader in the national drug court movement.

Patrick Gillham, PhD, has been researching and teaching about social movements, protest, and the policing of protest in democratic societies since the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999. His work in this area has been widely cited in the media and published in Social Problems, Police and Society, Mobilization and Social Justice, and in university press edited collections. He is associate professor of sociology at Western Washington University.

Bradley Hardy, PhD, is an associate professor of public administration and policy and nonresident senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution. He also serves as a visiting scholar with the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. His research is focused on income volatility, intergenerational mobility, poverty policy, and socio-economic outcomes. This work is largely focused on socio-economically disadvantaged families.

Elsie Harper-Anderson, PhD, is an associate professor of urban and regional planning, and director of the doctoral program at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research examines the impact of economic transformation on urban labor markets with a focus on social equity and sustainability. She also studies the connection between workforce development and economic development. Recent work examines the impact of entrepreneurial ecosystems on building inclusive economies.

Andrea M. Headley, PhD, holds appointments as a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and an assistant professor at The Ohio State University. She is a public management and criminal justice scholar whose research interests focus on the interface between government and the public, with particular attention on social equity. Her research has focused within the context of policing to understand how organizational, managerial, and individual level factors affect public service delivery and outcomes.

Matthew W. Hughey, PhD, is associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut; a research associate of critical studies in higher education transformation at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa; and affiliate member of culture, politics, and global justice at the University of Cambridge in England. His research focuses on the relationship between racial inequality and collective understandings of race and racism.

John Koskinen served on the staff of the Kerner Commission and spent 45 years managing large enterprises under stress in the public and private sector, including the Penn Central, Levitt and Sons, and the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company. He was also deputy director for management at OMB, the Year 2000 coordinator for the country, the deputy mayor and city administrator of Washington, DC, chairman of Freddie Mac and IRS commissioner. 

Rick Loessberg is the director of planning and development for Dallas County, Texas. He has had the experience of administering many programs similar to what the Kerner Commission recommended, and the insight of having served on and staffed special committees. He has written articles on the Kerner Commission, housing, and economic development. He has a BS in urban studies and a BA in economics from SMU, and a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

Glenn Muschert, PhD, is professor of sociology and social justice studies at Miami University. He specializes in the study of social problems, media discourse, moral panics, and digital sociology. He has published articles and chapters in the fields of sociology, criminology, and media studies. Recent books include “School Shootings: Mediatized Violence in a Global Age,” “The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective,” “Responding to School Violence: Confronting the Columbine Effect,” and “Theorizing Digital Divides.”

Gregory N. Price, PhD, is professor of economics at Morehouse College. His previous appointments include interim dean, School of Business, Langston University; Charles E. Merrill Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, Morehouse College; director of the Mississippi Urban Research Center; professor of economics at Jackson State University; and Economics Program Director at the National Science Foundation. He was president of the National Economic Association in 2008. His research interests include economic anthropometry and the economics of Historically Black Colleges/Universities.

Grant Rissler, PhD, is assistant director of the Office of Public Policy Outreach at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. In his role he oversees the Wilder School Public Policy Poll and manages OPPO’s Translational Research Fellows program, which builds bridges between academic expertise and public policymakers. His research focuses on the areas of local immigration policy, social equity and public opinion on policy issues.

Sharon Sayles Belton is the vice president of government affairs and community relations for Thomson Reuters, Legal. She is responsible for the development and management of Thomson Reuters, Legal’s government affairs strategies and initiatives. She served as mayor of Minneapolis from 1994 to 2001. She was the first woman and first African American to be elected mayor of the city. During her time in office, she achieved national recognition as an expert on public/private partnerships in public safety, neighborhood revitalization, and economic development.

Rhonda Sharpe, PhD, is founder and president of the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race. Her research reflects her broad concern with poverty and racial/ethnic and gender inequality. In 2018, she was named to the list of “25 Black Scholars to Know” by thebestschools.org. She is co-editor for the Review of Black Political Economy. Her opinions have been quoted in the New York Times, GRIO, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Duke Today.

Margaret C. Simms is a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute. Until April 2018, she was an Institute fellow and director of the Low-Income Working Families project. Before joining Urban, Simms was vice president for governance and economic analysis at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. In 2008, the National Economic Association presented her the Samuel Z. Westerfield Award. Carleton College awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2010. 

Jake Spano is mayor of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He was elected in 2016 after serving four years on the St. Louis Park City Council. His day job is as deputy secretary of state to Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. Previously he was marketing director for the City of St. Paul, and oversaw statewide policy for US Senator Amy Klobuchar. He serves on several regional and national transportation committees and is co-chair of the National League of Cities' Municipal Learning Community for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation.

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.