Above: Virginia Cumberbatch, LBJ alumna and director of the Community Engagement Center at UT Austin's Division of Diversity & Community Engagement. Photo courtesy Jay Godwin.
Fifty years ago during the long, hot summer of 1967, racial tensions in America reached a crescendo, erupting into a chain of urban uprisings in one major city after another—Newark, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Tampa, Detroit. Detroit’s was the worst: 43 people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.
Before the embers cooled, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Commission on Civil Disorders (known as the Kerner Commission) to find answers to three basic questions: What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?
Half a century later, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission Sen. Fred Harris joined a panel of scholars at the LBJ Library on March 6 to reflect on the origins of the report and discuss the stark parallels between now and then.