ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The 1968 Kerner Commission conclusion that racism is deeply embedded in the

American society is still true. Racism is still as American as apple pie in this area.

The existing huge disparities by race could not exist without racism.



Kerner Commission Report Forty Years After

Eisenhower Foundation Updates



Fred Harris Interviewed by Bill Moyers on the Kerner Commission

Bill Moyers: In March of 1968, the Report was published. It was brutal in its honesty:

While saying that a growing black militancy may have added fuel to the riots, the commission rejected the idea that there’d been any organization behind the outbreaks. Instead, the Commission blamed the violence on the devastating poverty and hopelessness endemic in the inner cities of the 1960s.

Among their many findings:

One in five African-Americans lived in “squalor and deprivation in ghetto neighborhoods.”

The unemployment rate was double for African-Americans, as compared to whites.

The report described communities that were neglected by their government, wracked with crime, and traumatized by police brutality.

Disproportionate rates of infant mortality were astonishing – African-American children dying at triple the rate of white children.

The statistics weren’t new. But the Kerner Commission pushed further, and laid the blame for many of these conditions on white racism: quote “what white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that the white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it. White institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

The report’s conclusion—and it’s most memorable message—was this: “our nation is moving towards two societies – one white, one black – separate and unequal.”

Fred Harris: We used the word racism. And on the commission, we had two or three people say, “Should we use that word, racism?”

Bill Moyers: Not a word that was thrown around largely by—government panels in the 1960s.

Fred Harris: We felt that was very important. I did and I think it was to say it. Because what we know is that oppressed people often come to believe about themselves the same bad stereotypes that the dominant society has. Our saying racism—think was very important to a lot of black people who said, “Well, maybe it’s not just me. Maybe I’m not—by myself at fault here. Maybe there’s something else going on.”

Bill Moyers: I remember that the headlines based on the premature leak of a summary of the report would read—”A Commission Blames Riots on Whites.”

Fred Harris: That’s right.

Bill Moyers: White racism. And that inflamed—whites who didn’t want to be blamed.

Fred Harris:  No, that’s right. But we felt—now I think if we had time to background it so that people would have understood it a little better. What we telling about—with racism was not—one white person hating one black—or all black people. We’re talking about kind of an institutional racism which existed. And where people live in all white neighborhoods. Send their kids to all white schools. Drive quickly through black section maybe, or on the train, to a job where all their associates are white. And don’t see anything odd about it. That was what—

Bill Moyers: The natural order of things.

Fred Harris:  That’s right. That’s what we were talking about. . . .

*   *   *   *   *

Bill Moyers: Looking back all this time, what did the Kerner Commission get right?

Fred Harris: I think well virtually everything was right. And I could add onto that this. I think one of the awfulest thing’s that came out of the Reagan presidency and later was the feeling that government can’t do anything right. And that—everything it does is wrong. The truth is that virtually everything we tried worked. We just quit trying it. Or we didn’t try it hard enough. And that’s what we need to get back to. We made progress on virtually every aspect of race and poverty—for about a decade after the Kerner Commission Report. And then, particularly with the advent of the Reagan Administration, and so forth, that progress stopped. And we began to go backwards. There are consequences from our acts, and when we—cut out a lot of these—social programs, or the money for them, or cut it down—we don’t emphasize jobs and training, and education, and so forth as we had been doing, there are bad consequences from that.

Bill Moyers: The Reagan conservatives were quite critical of the Kerner Commission as being unbalanced and simplistic. They say, for example, that you failed to take into consideration that the close correlation between being born out of wedlock, and growing up without a father, and being poor, that your work over the years actually exempts the poor from being responsible for their own condition.

Fred Harris: Well, you know, the breakdown in families is just like sort of crime and narcotics and so forth. These are the consequences. They’re the handmaidens in the sense of-poverty . . .  I said at the time, there are a lot of people who want to—punish people for being poor. You know, say, “It’s your own fault.” We want to punish people for being poor. I said, “I I used to poor myself. And being poor is punishment enough.” I think what you need to do is to help people—up, give ’em a hand up. And recognize the kind of terrible conditions that they’re grown up in.

Bill Moyers: For the last thirty years, Fred Harris has been teaching politics at the University of New Mexico. . . .But he never lost his commitment to the cause of the Kerner Commission. When he’s not in the classroom, he’s part of major, ongoing investigation into the issues of race and poverty today.

Harris sits on the board of the Eisenhower Foundation based in Washington D.C. the Foundation was created to continue the Kerner Commission. Its work is to research and support successful programs in the inner cities.

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Eisenhower Foundation Reports

Every few years, Eisenhower publishes an updated set of findings: a report card of how the country is dealing with the key issues raised by Kerner. Alan Curtis is President of the Eisenhower Foundation.

Alan Curtis:  The Kerner Commission said, “Look. These problems can be solved. Let’s not give up hope. And so, we try to be keepers of the flame of that message. That there is hope. There are solutions. And we remind America every so often, that we still have a long ways to go in fulfilling the prophesies of those commissions and their recommendations.

Bill Moyers: Alan Curtis and Fred Harris have been holding hearings in Washington, Detroit and Newark to prepare a report on the 40th anniversary of Kerner.

Alan Curtis: We want to listen. We’re taking testimony. We would encourage you to discuss today not only the solutions, but how to change political will in America so that we can embrace the priorities of the Kerner Commission and we can begin to fulfill America’s promise.

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A Striking Set of Voices

Komozi Woodard: We’ve gone from an urban crisis in the ’60s to an urban catastrophe in the 21st Century. That’s what you’re looking at when you look at Katrina. That’s what you’re looking at when you look at gentrification. We are in an urban catastrophe community, we need to be blunt about it because if we use the wrong words, it doesn’t wake people up, It puts them to sleep. This is not an ordinary situation and it is a national situation. It is not a Newark situation.

Junius Williams: Big northeastern cities are home to some of the most concentrated poverty in the country, and that’s your new split. That’s your new division.

Ronald Anglin: We’re seeing lives of quiet desperation that we have cordoned off communities in which we allow crime to exist. We allow lots of bad things to exist, and as long as they don’t spill over, that’s okay.

Richard Cammareri: I would take issue with one of the premises of the most famous quote in this that we’re moving towards two societies. I would respectfully suggest that we never were one society in this country. This country has simply never confronted the issue of race. . Race is, I guess to use a religious term, the original sin of this country.

Heaster Wheeler: I believe 40 years later, today the conditions here in Southeast Michigan are just as ripe for protest, and demonstration, and possibly all those other negative things as they were 40 years later. You need not look too far to see Jena, Louisiana and all of the other challenges.

Maureen Taylor: On my way here, there are people on corners, standing up with signs, say, “Will work for food.” But we’re in here, talking about what’s the problem?

Josephine Huyghe: You want to know what’s going on? It’s somebody say, “It’s the same old, same old.” With the continuation of white flight that started in the ’50s has been compounded by the exodus of the middle and upper class blacks as Detroit experienced a ‘brain drain’.

Dr. Herbert Smitherman: In 1970, the infant mortality rate, that is our babies dying before age of one, was about 65 percent higher in the black community than in the white community. Currently, it’s 205 percent higher in the black community than in the white community.

George Galster: The City of Detroit constitutes 85 percent black residents, only nine percent white residents. The poverty rate—white, it’s only 5.9 percent, blacks: 24 percent. The median family income—for whites, over $65,000, for blacks, only $37,000. We could go on and on, but, it’s very clear that there are these measurable distinctions between blacks and whites in metro Detroit.

Rev. Kevin Turman: The young people of my congregation and my community are as industrious as you will find anywhere. They are as innovative and as intelligent as any that you will find anywhere. But unfortunately, they have a number of challenges that have been un-addressed, because the recommendations of the Kerner Commission were ignored or dismissed.

Roy Levy Williams: The one industry which has flourished is the prison industry. And, yes, it has become an industry. During the last 15 years, this state has been averaging one brand new prison a year

Glenda McGadney: We have got to get serious about what’s going on and what our government is allowing to happen to us, and how we’re losing our rights every single day. And all this money that’s being spent for the war, we need to pray about that. Because it should not be going to Iraq. It should be right here in our cities, in our neighborhood.

Dr. Herbert Smitherman: When we had 9/11, we were arguing about Social Security reform. Where are we gonna find the money for it? And within 48 hours after 9/11, we found $40 billion for New York City, a billion dollars an hour. When we want to do something as a country, we do it. This is not about can we do. This is about a will. This is about do we want to do. When you start saying I’m gonna have cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, cuts to housing in urban development, no subsidies to mass transit, eliminate funding for job training, cut school lunch programs for inner city children, eliminate school loan programs for minority students, repeal after-school programs. What I’m saying is this is about public policy. This is about resource implementation.

Karl Gregory: The 1968 Kerner Commission conclusion that racism is deeply embedded in the American society is still true. Racism is still as American as apple pie in this area. The existing huge disparities by race could not exist without racism.

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Eisenhower Foundation Reports

Bill Moyers: The Eisenhower Foundation has now issued their preliminary report and it echoed the testimony they heard across the country:

While noting that certain things have improved – such as the dramatic growth of the black middle class—the foundation nonetheless concludes that “America has, for the most part, failed to meet the Kerner Commission’s goals of less poverty, inequality, racial injustice and crime.”

Among the troubling facts:

Thirty seven million Americans live in poverty today. But African-Americans are three times as likely to be at the very bottom of the scale, living in what’s known as ‘deep poverty’

Median non-white families have just one-fifth the wealth of white families

And…over the last 20 years, three times as many African-American men go to prison as go to college

Alan Curtis: Many people today—Americans have short memories, of course—don’t realize, for example, that the sentence for a minority person is longer than a sentence for a white person going to prison. Minorities are more likely to get the death sentence than white. The sentences for crack cocaine, used disproportionately by minorities, are longer than the sentences for powdered cocaine, used disproportionately by whites. And so, there is still this endemic, institutional racism in America that people forget about. And I think they need to be reminded about that.

Bill Moyers: The Eisenhower Foundation’s full report will be released later this year.

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Fred Harris Interviewed by Bill Moyers on the Kerner Commission

Bill Moyers: Fred, you’ve been teaching democracy down there at the University of New Mexico for 30 years. Your textbook on democracy is used in universities all over the country. Why can’t democracy deal with these persistent, chronic realities that the Kerner Commission described and you here 40 years later are restating?

Fred Harris : Well I think first of all—people don’t really realize that conditions are so bad for so many people in poverty and—and for African-Americans, and for Hispanics. I think a lot of people say, well, didn’t we do all that? And I think if people knew these conditions and that’s what we ought to do on the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Report is to get people to see that these problems of race and poverty are still with us. Also, I think we need to approach this on a basis of that we’re all in this together. Somebody said we may not have all come over on the same boat but we’re all in the same boat now.

And here’s the interesting thing. Every poll that’s taken shows that two-thirds of Americans think America’s on the wrong footing. They’re headed in the wrong direction. And there’s overwhelming support for example this: do you think we ought to spend more on– in prevention– by putting money in education and training and jobs, instead of police and prisons. Overwhelmingly people say, yes. Do you think that we ought to have a social net—so—just to catch people falling out and to give them another chance? Oh, yes, they strongly believe in that. What about healthcare? We got 46 million people without health insurance. And yet overwhelmingly Americans say, yes, I think we ought to have—healthcare even if—everybody—universal healthcare even if it costs us more money. So the public is way ahead of the politicians I think.

And I just think that, as I said, it’s in our own interests, and everybody’s interests to try to do something about it. We can do it.

Source: PBS—Bill Moyers

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February 29, 1968

Kerner Commission Report released

The President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders releases its report, condemning racism as the primary cause of the recent surge of riots. The report, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal,” called for expanded aid to African American communities in order to prevent further racial violence and polarization. Unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, the report said, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

The report identified more than 150 riots or major disorders between 1965 and 1968 and blamed “white racism” for sparking the violence—not a conspiracy by African American political groups as some claimed. Statistics for 1967 alone included 83 people killed and 1,800 injured—the majority of them African Americans–and property valued at more than $100 million damaged or destroyed. The 11-member commission, headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and recommend solutions.

*   *   *   *   *

40 years later, racial gap hasn’t quite disappeared—Last week, the Pew Center on the States issued a report that finds the U.S. leads the world in incarceration rates and raw numbers, especially for young black men. More than one in 100 adults in the U.S. is in jail or prison, the report said. That includes one in every nine black men ages 20 to 34. Throwing more offenders in prison reduces crime, studies show, but so does reducing joblessness, raising wages and putting more police officers on the streets, according to Adam Gelb, who co-authored the Pew report.America’s low-income neighborhoods and their school systems are still segregated by race, but with a key difference from 1968: Today’s racial divide is a consequence of an income divide. White flight to the suburbs in the wake of the riots in the 1960s was quickly followed by middle-class black flight. Today’s urban poor are fewer in number but more isolated, not only from the white mainstream but also from upwardly mobile blacks. Instead of traditional street riots, a group of experts who included former Kerner Commission members said in a follow-up report 20 years ago, we have “quiet riots” of street crimes, drug addiction, family violence and other self-destructive behavior stirred by rage, frustration and despair. Ten years from now, as we look at the 50th anniversary of the Kerner report, I hope we can point to progress in closing the gap between the upwardly mobile and those stuck on the bottom. A presidential campaign is an excellent time to begin that task. We don’t need to wait for a riot. Baltimore Sun

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Forty Year Update of the Kerner Riot Commission

By The Eisenhower Foundation (February 2008)

Executive Summary

The bipartisan National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders issued its final report to the nation on March 1, 1968. Convened by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the panel was known as the Kerner Commission, after then-Illinois Governor Otto Kerner.

The Eisenhower Foundation is the private sector continuation of the Kerner Commission and the bipartisan Eisenhower Violence Commission. The latter was formed by President Johnson and extended by President Nixon.

The Foundation periodically updates the Kerner and Violence commissions. For this 40 year Kerner update, we have held hearings in Detroit, Newark and Washington DC – to secure recommendations from citizens, the media, religious leaders, public sector officials, private sector leaders and others. (See for hearing transcripts and video testimony.)

The 40 year findings summarized here also draw on papers and advice from the Foundation’s Fortieth Anniversary Task Force of 40 experts and scholars. (See Attachment 3.)

We intend to dialogue with the American people on the preliminary findings in thepresent report and then revise it into a final report to be published late in 2008. What follows, then, is the beginning of an inclusionary process.

What Did the Kerner Commission Conclude?

The Kerner Commission responded to the wave of disorders around the nation from 1963 to 1967. They were called “riots” in the mainstream media, but often were called “rebellions” in the communities where they took place. The frequency of such violent group conflict diminished in later years – with a few notable exceptions, like the 1984 Liberty City disorders in Miami and the 1992 disorders in South Central Los Angeles after the first Rodney King trial verdict.  

In terms of long run policy outcomes, the Kerner Commission in large part focused on how to reduce poverty, inequality, racial injustice and crime. (In some ways, individual acts of crime and violence are “quiet riots” – safer from police detection than large scale group disturbances.) The Commission concluded that “important segments of the media failed to report adequately on the causes of civil disorders and on the underlying problems of race relations….”

American media emphasized the Commission’s characterization of two societies, Black and White, separate and unequal. But the Commission believed that it was “time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens – urban and rural, White and Black, Spanishsurname, American Indian, and every minority group.”

The Commission saw the federal government as the only institution with the moral authority and resources to create change “at a scale equal to the dimension of the problems.” The “most persistent and serious grievances” were unemployment and underemployment, in the view of the Commission. Education and desegregation also were high priorities. The Commission concluded that new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, “new will” would be necessary to carry out its recommendations.

What Happened in the Last Forty Years?

There are important exceptions, but America has, for the most part, failed to meet the Kerner Commission’s goals of less poverty, inequality, racial injustice and crime:


• 37 million Americans live in poverty today, in the richest country in history.

• 46 million Americans are without health insurance, and 36 percent of the poor are unprotected.

• The child poverty rate has increased slightly, from 15 percent in 1968 to 17 percent in 2006.

• For young children (below 5 years old) the poverty rate is almost 21 percent today.

• The American child poverty rate is about 4 times the average poverty rate for Western European countries.

• Poverty has deepened for those who have remained poor. The proportion of the poor below half the poverty line was about 30 percent in 1975 and 43 percent in 2006.

• Poor African Americans are 3 times as likely and poor Hispanics twice as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to live in deep poverty, below half the poverty line.

• The poverty rate has declined for African Americans since the Kerner Commission, but poverty in African American female headed households with children under 18 was almost 44 percent in 2006.

• The Kerner Commission found that unemployment and underemployment were the most important causes of poverty, yet African American unemployment has continued to be twice as high as White unemployment during each of the 4 decades since 1968.

• The employment prospects of the nation’s out-of-school 16-24 year old men have declined considerably since 2000. The problem is especially acute for young African American men. Among high school drop outs aged 19, only 38 percent of African Americans are employed, compared to 67 percent of Whites.

Inequality: Income and Wealth

• The top 1 percent of the population (300,000 Americans) now receives as much income as the lower one-half of the population (150 million Americans).

• Since the late 1970s, the real after tax income of those at the top of the income scale has grown by 200 percent, while it has grown by 15 percent for those in the middle and 9 percent for those at the bottom.

• A recent Brookings Institution study on mobility found that 68 percent of White children from middle income families grew up to surpass their parents’ income in real terms. But that share was only 31 percent for middle income African American children – demonstrating downward mobility.

• America has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the industrialized world.

• In terms of wealth, America is the most unequal country in the industrialized world.

Inequality: Wages

• Over the last 40 years, America has had the most rapid growth in wage inequality in the industrialized world.

• Since the 1970s, productivity has increased significantly in America, but wages have increased little in real terms. Corporations are not sharing profits with workers, as had been more the case, for example, in the late 1960s. From November 2001 through July 2006, worker wages grew at an annual rate of 1.6 percent, while profits grew at an annual rate of 14.4 percent.

• In the 1960s, the average CEO earned about 40 times more than the average worker. Today, the average CEO earns about 360 times as much.

• Among full time workers, Whites earn over 22 percent more than equivalent African American workers and almost 34 percent more than equivalent Hispanic workers.

Inequality: Education

• In science achievement tests in 2003, American students ranked 20th out of 40 countries.

• Large disparities remain in America between the educational achievement of White and Asian American high school students compared to Latino and African American high school students.

• American educational disparities remain linked to funding disparities. The wealthiest 10 percent of school districts in the U.S. spend nearly 10 times more than the poorest 10 percent.

• In the U.S., the highest performing students from low income families now enroll in college at the same rate as the lowest performing students from high income families. In other words, the smartest poor kids attend college at the same rate as the dumbest rich kids.

• The American educational system allocates more unequal inputs and produces more unequal outcomes than most other industrialized nations.

Racial Injustice

• The likelihood for the death sentence is greater for minorities than Whites. Minorities receive longer sentences than Whites for the same crimes. Sentences for crack cocaine, used disproportionately by minorities, have been much longer than sentences for powder cocaine, used disproportionately by Whites.

• There is continuing evidence from distinguished scholars that some employers “steer” minority applicants into the worst jobs regardless of their qualifications; that many real estate agents steer minorities to less desirable locations, compared to Whites; and that lenders treat minorities differently from Whites in terms of percentage of mortgage applications accepted.

• School desegregation proceeded rapidly in America from the 1960s to the 1980s and then was dramatically reversed by the courts.

• Residential segregation declined overall for African Americans in the 1990s but it rose for African Americans below age 18.

• Hispanic residential segregation increased in many major metropolitan areas from 1980 to 2000.

• Overall levels of residential segregation remain high for African Americans and Latinos.


• The percent of Americans reporting fear of walking alone at night has increased from about 31 percent in 1967 to about 38 percent in 2006.

• The most accurately reported crime is homicide. The homicide rate in the 1960s was roughly the same as it is today (5.1 per 100,000 in 1960, 6.2 in 1967 and 5.7 in 2006).

• This is so in spite of an eight fold increase in the total population of persons in prisons and jails since the late 1960s. Well over 2,000,000 persons now are in American prisons and jails. America has the highest reported rate of incarceration in the world.

• African American men aged 25 to 29 are almost 7 times as likely to be incarcerated as their White counterparts.

• Today, the rate of incarceration of African American men in the U.S. is 4 times higher than the rate of incarceration of African American men in South Africa during the pre-Nelson Mandela apartheid government.

• A prison-industrial complex has developed. The states collectively now spend more on prison construction than on construction for higher education.

• A disproportionate number of ex-offenders return from prison to a small number of heavily impacted communities.

• The national recidivism rate for persons released from prison is over 67 percent.

• The late 1990s decline in violent crime has recently reversed in many cities, based on a report by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Positive Trends Since the Kerner Commission

As we dialogue on these negative findings with citizens across the nation before releasing our final report, it will be important to acknowledge and debate the positive trends since the Kerner Commission. For example, an African American is running for President, and a Latino was a candidate in the early 2008 primaries. Compared to the late 1960s, substantial African American and Latino middle classes have emerged, the number of minority entrepreneurs has greatly expanded, and there are large numbers of minority local and state elected officials.

How Have the Media Failed the People?

Since the Kerner Commission, media ownership has been reduced to just a few giant corporations, facilitated by federal deregulation. Corporate oligopolies now are threatening control of the Internet. Billionaire media owners have a deep stake in political outcomes.  Minorities are greatly underrepresented in the media. Minority ownership is miniscule. Top heavy with White middle-class men, television news departments and major newspapers today are obsessed with ratings and profits. The priorities of the Kerner Commission rarely come to the fore, and then only for a short while, as the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Jena 6 have illustrated. (See for testimony from the Eisenhower Foundation’s Kerner 40th hearings on the media.)

What New Policy Is Needed?

Polls have consistently shown that most Americans believe the major obstacle to progress is “lack of knowledge.” That is not so. In the years since the Kerner Commission, we have learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t work. Within a policy framework based on the values and history of the American people, we therefore should seek to replicate what works “to a scale equal to the dimension of the problems” (to quote the Kerner Commission) and stop doing what doesn’t work.

Our policy focus is on the truly disadvantaged, the working class and the middle class – because we seek an electoral alliance of Americans broad enough to secure reform. The alliance very much needs solidarity between Hispanics and African Americans, who together now make up over 25 percent of the population. Following Kerner priorities, we propose economic, job, education, race specific, crime prevention and targeted multiple solution policy reforms, as follows:

Economic and Job Policy

Over the last 40 years, inclusive, demand side economic policy that creates tight labor markets has performed better for the poor and for the nation as a whole than exclusionary supply side policy that favors the rich and tells average Americans “you’re on your own.” (See Attachment 1.)

We therefore need demand side economic policy that empowers American workers and communicates to the poor, working class and middle class that “we’re in this together.”

The existing Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act should be strengthened to require the Federal Reserve Board to take action whenever the unemployment rate rises above 4 percent.

That will keep labor markets tight.

The federal minimum wage remains relatively low, and the impact is disproportionate to lower income families. We need to raise the minimum wage to one-half of the average wage for blue collar workers and nonmanagers – and then to index the rate to that level.

Especially given that the official definition of poverty in America is absurdly low ($21,386 for a family of 4), we need to enact universal health care, which will disproportionately help the poor. The federal government needs to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit and to increase resources for specific family budget items like housing and child care.

Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, the most important labor law reform since the Wagner Act, will add much needed balance to the playing field for workers who seek to form unions in workplaces – especially in industries where the truly disadvantaged and minority workers are employed, like service industries. Worker empowerment will fall short without job skills and high school (or equivalency) diplomas for the truly disadvantaged. Consistent with the Kerner Commission’s call for a comprehensive manpower and education policy, we need a new Employment Training and Job Creation Act that replaces the present Work Investment Act and the present “work first”

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

For the neediest, including high school dropouts and welfare clients, the Employment Training and Job Creation Act should fund replications of grassroots, city, state and national youth job training and job retention models that already have been evaluated as successful or hold great promise as best practices.*

But the Employment Training and Job Creation Act also should provide working class and middle class Americans with enhanced skills for upward mobility and new skills when they lose their jobs (especially when the cause is job loss to other countries and globalization more generally).

Newly trained workers should be directed to private sector jobs generated by tight labor markets. In addition, America should finance public sector employment in industries with great need – including health care, housing development, public infrastructure development, energy and high tech sectors. America needs to end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs oversees and give breaks to companies that create good jobs with decent wages in the United States.

Worker empowerment requires building a democratic strategy against globalization, beginning with a movement for a new social contract for workers in North America.

The nation should legalize permanent residence of and paths to citizenship for the large numbers of law-abiding and hard-working immigrants who now are living in America illegally. (One study estimates the number at 12 million.) Immigrants represent a critical resource for the American economy. Maximum civic incorporation of immigrants is fundamental to the American values of liberty, democracy and equal opportunity.

Education Policy

America needs an Education Equity Act that replaces the failed No Child Left Behind law. No Child Left Behind has had little significant success in either changing previously existing educational trends or in diminishing the racial achievement gap.

The federal government must finance a system to create equity in dollar investment per pupil across all school districts, as is done in most advanced industrialized countries. All public schools need comparable physical facilities, equipment, teacher training, teacher compensation, class sizes and curricula.

* Such models include the Career Academies Program, the Career Beginnings Program, Casa Verde Builders, the Center for Employment Training, the Gulf Coast Trades Center, Job Corps, the Latinos Stars Program, the Los Angeles Youth Opportunity Movement, Moving Up, Project Opportunity, Project Paycheck, the SoBRO Youth Development Center, the Youth Career Program and YouthBuild USA.

A new Education Equity Act should fully fund Head Start preschool for all eligible poor children. We then need to replicate successful state equity models, like Connecticut, which raised and equalized teacher salaries, and North Carolina, which recruited new teachers through service scholarships.

Most poor African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities are offered curricula geared primarily to “rote” memorization. The curricula do not develop the skills in the new knowledge-based economy that allow students to engage in independent analysis and problem solving – and that will teach them to communicate effectively. The Education Equity Act needs to develop and equalize curricula based on the successes in states like Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Oregon and Vermont.

The Education Equity Act should include a new Contract for College as articulated by Demos, the public policy research and action organization. The Contract would unify the existing three strands of federal financial aid – grants, loans and work-study – into a coherent, guaranteed financial aid package for students. Grants would make up the bulk of aid for students from low and moderate income families. The Contract would recognize the important value of reciprocity – so part of the Contract for every student would include some amount of student loan aid and/or some work-study requirements.

The Contract is designed to re-orient federal aid back to a more grant-based system and to ensure that students from all financial backgrounds understand upfront the type of financial aid that will be available. 

Racial Desegregation Policy

There must be national, state and local re-commitment to racial desegregation and integration in our schools and communities, consistent with the recommendations of the Kerner Commission.

School desegregation was effectively halted by the Supreme Court’s 2007 Seattle decision. But national surveys show that two thirds of the population believes desegregation improves education for minorities. A growing proportion of the population is aware of and has accepted the research findings that desegregation has a positive impact on Whites, as well, according to the UCLA-based Civil Rights Project.

Such findings need to help anchor a new grassroots movement, part of a Fair Economic Deal (below), that pushes for change in elected leadership. In turn, such change can be a stepping stone for change in the makeup of the federal courts, leading to reversal of the 2007 Supreme Court decision.

With schools and residential segregation so intertwined, a new movement must renew advocacy for housing desegregation. To succeed with a comprehensive policy for stable, racially integrated neighborhoods, we need to promote the ability of racial minorities to move into White neighborhoods; encourage White families to move into predominantly minority neighborhoods; control market forces to insure that low income (especially minority) families are not pushed out of neighborhoods as a result of gentrification; and reduce racial discrimination by key players in the housing chain – including homebuilders, landlords, lenders, brokers, real estate agents and insurance companies.

Consistent with this framework, the Eisenhower Foundation will dialogue in coming months with leading advocates to explore a number of new initiatives. For example, there is a need to:

• Widely replicate and greatly expand successfully evaluated “mobility programs” — like the Chicago Gautreaux program and the federal Moving to Opportunity program – that use Section 8 vouchers to encourage low income and minority families to move into better neighborhoods. We need to build more market rate rental housing and use Section 8 vouchers to help minorities get access to them.

• Reform the Community Reinvestment Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to subject private mortgage lenders and homeowner insurance companies to regulatory oversight – on issues like predatory lending and redlining.

Targeted Safe Haven Investment Zone Policy

Federal, state and local policy needs to shift away from expensive and cost-ineffective prison building that continues the present 67 percent-plus recidivism rate. We need to move towards less expensive and more effective alternatives in the community. We need to follow the model of the state of Arizona which, years ago, began moving in this direction.

Priority should be given to best practice models that reintegrate ex-offenders when they leave prison. These models secure high school equivalency diplomas, train ex-offenders for employment, find them productive jobs, and follow up to insure job retention. The principles underlying these models deserve much more widespread replication.*

Even more cost-beneficial are prevention models at the grassroots that keep children and youth out of trouble – so they never end up in prison. Typically, these initiatives provide multiple solutions – like crime and delinquency prevention, drug prevention, school drop out prevention, school performance improvement and positive youth development.**

 * Such models include the Center for Employment Opportunities, Delancey Street, Dismas House, the Fortune Society, Gemeinschaft Home, Opportunities for Success, Pioneer Human Services and the Safer Foundation.

 ** Just a few examples which have been positively evaluated and deserve widespread replication include Centro Sister Isolina Ferre in San Juan, the Challengers Boys and Girls Club in Los Angeles, the Comer School Development Plan nationally, the Dorchester Youth Collaborative in Boston, the Dover Youth Safe Haven in New Hampshire, Full Service Community Schools nationally, the Quantum Opportunities program nationally, Youth Development in Albuquerque, Youth Guidance in Chicago and Youth Safe Haven-Police Ministation initiatives in many locations across the nation.

A Safe Haven Investment Act should be legislated that co-targets such models with job training, job creation, ex-offender reintegration, community policing, low and moderate income housing development, public infrastructure development and community-based banking initiatives. The co-targeting should be in geographic areas of greatest need – like the census tracks where the 4 million Americans in deepest poverty live and the neighborhoods where high numbers of ex-offenders return. Such Safe Haven Investment Zones should build in part on the Harlem Children’s Zone model created by Geoffrey Canada.

How to Finance Reform?

The policies proposed here should be financed by changes in the American tax code that generate significant revenues and simultaneously reduce economic inequality. The changes rescind the recent tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and eliminate corporate tax loopholes.

Our recommendations are based on a policy paper written for the Eisenhower Foundation by Dr. John Irons, Director for Research and Policy at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. The paper is found here as Attachment 2.

How To Change Political Will?

The Kerner Commission called for “new will” to carry out its vision. Today, the need to change political will is even more necessary, and difficult, because of the prevailing ideology that tells citizens they’re on their own.

As we take these preliminary findings to the American people over coming months, our first priority therefore is to dialogue on how to change political will. Little is possible without such change.

To begin the debate, we call for a grassroots people’s movement for a Fair Economic Deal. An electoral majority needs to be fashioned from among the poor, working class and middle class – all of whom value and benefit from our recommendations on worker empowerment, jobs, education, health and physical security. African Americans and Latinos are central to the majority. Public morality defined as the common good needs to be invoked. The movement must take the high moral ground. (See for testimony at the Foundation’s hearings in Washington, DC on public morality.)

To be morally and politically credible, a Fair Economic Deal must be effectively communicated as integral to the American story.

What is the American story, the American narrative, upon which a Fair Economic Deal can be based? America was the first nation in history to offer freedom through opportunity to every citizen, however humble. Abraham Lincoln recognized how positive government furthered opportunity, and so used public funds for racial justice, land grants colleges and public infrastructure development. Theodore Roosevelt believed that making giant corporations accountable to the people was an American moral value.

Responding to how the unregulated market caused the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt empowered the people with a social contract that overcame fear and valued working together. John Kennedy’s inaugural speech was  a “trumpet summons” for “peaceful revolution” by the people who, he said, needed to value “what together we can do,” unselfishly for our country.

The profiles in courage of these Republican and Democratic presidents, and of great social movement leaders like Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, are needed today. If new American leaders with such courage come forth, the movement for a Fair Economic Deal can make some immediate progress with the policies proposed in this preliminary report.

 But a new movement also must be realistic, and so must take a decades-long strategic perspective. Building on the American narrative, the movement for a Fair Economic Deal must nurture and finance new grassroots leadership with fresh vision in the electoral world and in the world of nonprofit organization and advocacy. The corrupting influence of money in day-to-day corporate lobbying and in political campaigns must be dramatically reduced. Progress must begin again on voting rights reform. An infrastructure of nonprofit think tanks and new hybrid institutions must be created to advance new ideas, effectively communicate them and discredit existing beliefs.

Alternative media must be enhanced and existing media reformed – to expose the failures in the ideology of the elite.

The American people are ready to support a Fair Economic Deal. Many of the policy recommendations in this report are embraced by significant and continuing majorities of Americans polled. Pew and Gallup polls show support for raising the minimum wage, government relief for skyrocketing college costs, and government guarantees for universal health insurance, “even if it means repealing most of the recent tax cuts [for the rich].” Daniel Yankelovich has found, in the words of Bill Moyers, that a majority of citizens want “social cohesion and common ground based on pragmatism and compromise, patriotism and diversity…”

Only 14 percent of American workers believe they have secured the American Dream:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore –

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Langston Hughes

Source: Eisenhower Foundation

posted 1 April 2008

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Mackie on Kerner Report

“What we telling about—with racism was not—one white person hating one black—or all black people. We’re talking about kind of an institutional racism which existed. And where people live in all white neighborhoods. Send their kids to all white schools. Drive quickly through black section maybe, or on the train, to a job where all their associates are white. And don’t see anything odd about it.” This is an exact description, ratcheted up some, of Jena, Louisiana, of today: The Black neighborhoods they are not even franchised or incorporated within Jena as a whole. Black families of these neighborhoods can’t even vote in Jena politics. The churches are segregated by physical and psychological distance. Blacks might work in Jena but they do not live there. If it’s a Black kid who is the player winning games for the high school home team, he can’t really believe it is his home team, even though everyone looks up to him as long as he is on the field. But then he returns to his unincorporated neighborhood. All of this adds a new meaning to the phrase “field” Niggra. And the white establish doesn’t believe they have a race problem and accuse Northern journalists of exaggerating the circumstances.—Mackie

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The Lingering Tragedies of the Kerner Report

It seems Reverend Wright is being rehabilitated. But, of course, he should never have been demonized and vilified. His danger to our morals and ethics has been much exaggerated, as well as his danger to the state. CBS Chicago

I wish I could be optimistic, but I was in the supermarket today, and took a glance at the cover of one of the tabloids.   Obama and Wright together and captioned as enemies of America.—Wilson

The miraculous intrigues me, though God is not so ready to talk to me as he is Jeremiah Wright. Of course, cable news and toilet tabloids undermine the little enthusiasm for the spiritual one might possess. These media hyenas look forward to, generate, and thrive on the worse in society. They are always there to howl in the darkness to frighten us away from the good. Millions will vote against Obama because he’s a black man, though they’ll say it is for other reasons. But fear is at the core of it all. A black family in the White House remains a farce for many. That cannot be avoided even in our more enlightened times.

Blackness only sells well as entertainment. Joy does not come easy in America. Black as power remains a threat for many, even when it’s just one man on a lone highway. It will take more generations to overcome thoroughly that kind of irrationality. Unlike some on the black-hand side I do not consider racism endemic to white persons or to America. Centuries of training is not easily wiped away in a life time. We still do not feel fully comfortable with one another, even though in some cases our families have lived for centuries in the same towns, the same counties, on the same road. We do not visit one another in homes or churches. Our family church is 138 years old and I’ve never known any local white to come visit except for a funeral or possibly a wedding and these came from afar.

Slavery and Jim Crow (white supremacy) remain the bugbear under our rugs. South Carolina on the statehouse grounds still flies the Confederate flag, though a third of its citizens are black. Lately, Florida acknowledged the brutality of its past. But on the whole when it comes to black feelings, black appreciation, still, many are less than empathetic, especially for the black poor. One can say that we who are educated and materially advanced have become damn right callous. Read Kerner Commission Report Forty Years After

I am not an enthusiastic supporter of black church leaders. I still find it amazing that Obama got hooked up with Jeremiah Wright. But Obama is a consummate politician and as politician one has to settle somewhere, especially when an electorate prefers a churchgoing politician. What better than a non-black denominational black church, that purports to work for the black poor and their best interests. From all measures Wright and Obama have a genuine fondness for each other beyond politics. This PBS interview with Jeremiah might be of interest in explaining aspects of their friendship (PBS Interview)

What troubles me in the Obama-Wright episode is how easily the cable news can reduce exceptional persons to common criminals. We have not only had Wright crushed in the last month or so but we have had the governor of New York Eliot Spitzer, as has been wonderfully pointed out. In matters of race, religion, and sex or any combination of them, and possibly the exceptionalism of America, the emotions of the public are so easily mangled to make the good the worse, the worst the best. Did you note how Patrick Buchanan was able to call Obama a “black hustler” and nothing was said on these cable news channels in defense of a U.S. Senator (A Brief for Whitey). It is this kind of absolute reduction, that inward Abu Ghraib syndrome, I find most disturbing among our white leaders and leaders.

I do not say we have no scoundrels among us. We each have at least one in our own family. Dorothy Rice believes we Christians are forgivers (all those years of slavery and Jim Crow) and we are ever ready to embrace our neighbor however obtuse (and criminal) they may have been, maybe to a fault. Few of us in our personal lives rarely run across such exceptional men as Obama and Wright (Christians Are Forgivers: Obama as Healer). Many of us too quickly exaggerate our love or our hatred.

It’s indeed regrettable that men like Patrick Buchanan and those white men of cable news and the toilet tabloids are incapable of looking beyond the skins of their neighbors, and when they are capable, they only find the worst stereotypes. I am certain an Obama presidency will continue to guarantee the idiocies and jollies of these media pundits and babblers. Hopefully, in the next decade, we will be well along on the road to solving the lingering tragedies pointed out by the Kerner Report.—Rudy

posted 1 April 2008

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Jefferson’s Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson’s Pillow, Wilkins returns to America’s beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America’s founding, Jefferson’s Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

*   *   *   *   *

Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

*   *   *   *   *

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 11 July 2012




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