HISTORY

The Essential Kerner Commission Report

Liveright. Jul. 2021. 224p. ed. by Jelani Cobb, with Matthew Guariglia. ISBN 9781631498923. pap. $16.95. HIST
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This condensed version of the 1967 report by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (popularly known as the Kerner Commission Report) is a telling document of the long history of racial and social unrest in the United States, and of the need to make fundamental structural and institutional change. With a perceptive introduction by historian Cobb (staff writer, The New Yorker), this version of the report, co-edited by historian Guariglia, is indeed essential for what it presents and why its findings still matter. This edition includes the vital parts of the original report; it largely omits individual accounts of many examples of unrest in the 1960s and lets the accounts from Detroit and Newark stand for the rest. As the original report insisted, and as this version does as well, white American society must understand these issues and act immediately and forcefully to correct these wrongs.
VERDICT The Kerner Commission Report was in its day a tour de force of investigation and recommendation, with a sense of urgency that still echoes in this edition. What was true in 1967 remains so in the 21st century, and this version of the report might point the way toward a national resolution, if the United States summons the will and wherewithal to make change.
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