Separate and Unequal

The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism


By Steven M. Gillon

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From a New York Times bestselling author, the definitive history of the Kerner Commission, whose report on urban unrest reshaped American debates about race and inequality

In Separate and Unequal, New York Times bestselling historian Steven M. Gillon offers a revelatory new history of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders — popularly known as the Kerner Commission. Convened by President Lyndon Johnson after riots in Newark and Detroit left dozens dead and thousands injured, the commission issued a report in 1968 that attributed the unrest to “white racism” and called for aggressive new programs to end discrimination and poverty. “Our nation is moving toward two societies,” it warned, “one black, and one white — separate and unequal.”

Johnson refused to accept the Kerner Report, and as his political coalition unraveled, its proposals went nowhere. For the right, the report became a symbol of liberal excess, and for the left, one of opportunities lost. Separate and Unequal is essential for anyone seeking to understand the fraught politics of race in America.



On July 27, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson stood before a national television audience to announce the creation of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (NACCD). The speech followed deadly and destructive riots in Newark and Detroit, which marked the culmination of four consecutive summers of racial unrest in American cities. The violence in the summer of 1967 marked an important moment in the evolution of the civil rights movement from peaceful protests in the South and the nonviolent rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. to violent confrontations in the North and the angry voices of black nationalists such as Stokely Carmichael. The shift shattered the coalition that had just a few years earlier won passage of two monumental civil rights laws—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—and it created a deep and bitter divide between black and white.

The Newark and Detroit riots came at a difficult time in the Johnson presidency. LBJ had dominated Washington during his first years in office. In 1964, after winning election in a massive landslide, he had pushed Congress to pass an ambitious set of social programs as part of his Great Society agenda. Now, however, he found himself trapped, bogged down in a costly and increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam that threatened to tear apart the Democratic Party. Liberals who had cheered his Great Society legislation now split into rival factions of hawks and doves over the war. While Cold War liberals pushed Johnson to wage a more aggressive war, a small but vocal group of critics attacked LBJ from the left, charging that the war squandered resources that should be spent at home. At the same time, a generation gap eroded support for his administration, as many young people, especially those attending elite private colleges and large state universities, vigorously protested the war and rejected Johnson’s establishment liberalism.

While fighting off challenges from the left, LBJ was also facing a potent backlash from Republicans and many conservatives who opposed the expansion of federal power under his administration. Most of all, the right tapped into white suburbanites’ growing fear of racial unrest. For many white Americans, urban riots appeared to be part of a crime epidemic that swept the nation in the 1960s. Their fears were justified. Property crime (burglary, larceny, and auto theft) soared 73 percent between 1960 and 1967. The rate of violent crime (murder, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault) doubled. Between 1965 and 1969, the crime rate in America increased by double digits every year. Despite the attention focused on cities, the crime rate grew fastest in rural areas and small towns.1

A reenergized Republican Party pounced on the divided Democrats. After being declared dead following Barry Goldwater’s humiliating defeat in the 1964 presidential election, Republicans clawed back to relevance by attacking their opponents as soft on crime while winning over many moderates with appeals for “law and order.” The GOP made major gains in the 1966 midterm elections, narrowing Democrats’ control over Congress and limiting LBJ’s policy options. The following year, when Johnson asked Congress for a tax increase to fund his Great Society programs, conservative Democrats and Republicans insisted that the administration reduce expenses before it would consider such a measure.

Then came the “long hot summer” of 1967, when riots ripped through more than one hundred cities. Nearly every week came new violent images of angry confrontations between police and protesters, along with widespread looting and arson that culminated with bloody confrontations in Newark and Detroit. By the end of July, with dozens of dead and whole city blocks burned to the ground, LBJ understood that he needed to assert presidential power and reassure the nation. But what could he do?

Creating a presidential commission seemed like the ideal option: it allowed him to demonstrate leadership without committing his administration to a specific course of action. He planned to kick the issue of urban violence down the road in hopes that by the time his commission issued its report, the crisis would have already passed. It was a strategy many postwar American presidents used to handle vexing political issues. Between 1945 and 1955, there was an average of one and a half presidential commissions appointed every year. Johnson would appoint twenty such commissions during his tenure as president. As the burdens on the presidency increased in postwar America, commissions became a convenient way for presidents to fill the gap between what they could deliver and what was expected of them. The popularity of presidential commissions also reflected the postwar fascination with experts and the belief that social scientists could offer objective solutions to complicated social problems.2

Johnson filled the eleven-member commission that he announced that evening with mainstream bipartisan figures. For chairman, he selected Illinois Democratic governor Otto Kerner. Although Kerner would not play a major role, his name would become synonymous with the commission and its work. New York’s liberal Republican mayor John Lindsay served as vice chairman. There were two African Americans, two Republican and two Democratic members of Congress, representatives from both business and labor, and one woman. There were no radicals or young people, and there was no spokesman for the black nationalist movement. Johnson assumed that his mainstream commission would produce a mainstream report that would endorse the broad outlines of his existing domestic agenda and insulate him from attacks both from the right and from the left.

The new commission, however, failed to follow the White House script. Determined to assert their independence, commissioners hired a team of investigators, visited riot-torn areas, and held hearings with activists and public officials. Their final report, released in March 1968, used stark language to conclude that the riots occurred because white society had denied opportunity to African Americans living in poor urban areas. The report offered dire warnings that only aggressive federal action could prevent future unrest. It proposed a long list of specific recommendations, including the construction of six million new housing units, greater federal spending on education, and more generous welfare payments to those in need. The report stopped short of what many activists and some liberals might have liked, though. At the same time, the cost of funding the report’s proposals was far more than President Lyndon Johnson could afford to spend while fighting a billion-dollar war in Vietnam.

Most observers focused on two lines in the summary of the report. Borrowing language from the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), which declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” the Kerner Commission concluded, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, and one white—separate and unequal.” It also placed blame for urban ills on “white racism.” The report asserted, “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto,” adding, “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”3

In many ways, it was remarkable that this group of establishment figures would point an accusatory finger at white racism. Before joining the commission, most members had only an abstract awareness of the conditions in poor urban areas. They were shocked by what they witnessed in their trips to riot-ravaged neighborhoods and by the willful neglect exhibited by white officials and public institutions. They saw firsthand that African Americans attended poorly funded schools and lacked access to jobs and even to decent sanitation. At the same time, the commission’s field teams, sent to conduct intensive research in the riot cities, sent back damning reports that underscored the wretched conditions in many areas and documented a history of discrimination and white indifference to black concerns. As a result, a broad consensus emerged among the commissioners that they needed to use the report to educate the public and to do so by using provocative language that would shake white America from its indifference.

Had the report been written a few years earlier, LBJ might have embraced it and its recommendations. But the commission’s independence and ambition came at an inconvenient time for the White House. LBJ’s coalition was crumbling, the federal budget was tighter, and the president faced stiff opposition for his party’s nomination. Fearing that he had created what domestic policy adviser Joseph Califano called “a Frankenstein monster,” Johnson soured on his commission within weeks of announcing its creation and worked behind the scenes to sabotage its investigation. Privately, he had promised to fund most of the commission’s work with a December supplemental spending request to Congress. He reneged on that pledge, hoping that cutting the commission’s financial lifeline would force it out of business before it could issue a final report. But the gambit failed. In the end, a resentful and angry LBJ refused to accept a copy of the final report, and, in a fit of childish pique, he did not even sign customary letters thanking the commissioners for their service.

The tensions between the commission and the president were dramatic, but the commissioners and their staff were also deeply divided, despite the unanimous report they eventually produced. The debates on the commission exposed the fault lines that were emerging in American society. Generational and ideological differences split the young field team members, many of whom had been radicalized by their service in the Peace Corps or their time spent in the civil rights movement in the South, from the mainstream liberals, who dominated the senior positions on the commission. Deep ideological conflicts among the commissioners themselves reflected the larger public debate over race and riots. The commissioners could not agree on what caused the riots or on what solutions they should offer for preventing future violence. Largely because of John Lindsay’s efforts, the final document managed to speak with one voice and to push liberalism to its limits. At just the time that the administration was trimming its sails, the commission issued a report that held LBJ accountable for the bold goals he had set in the early days of his administration.

Although the final report was unanimous, the commissioners had failed to reach consensus on many of their specific recommendations. In fact, the commission serves as a microcosm of the unraveling of postwar American liberalism. LBJ had chosen the commissioners because they each represented a constituency that made up his broad coalition. Their work on the commission, however, pushed members in very different directions and exposed the fragile nature of LBJ’s consensus. Lindsay and Oklahoma senator Fred Harris would become increasingly skeptical that the nation could solve problems of race and poverty without fundamental changes that went beyond conventional politics. Within a few years, they would redefine themselves as nonpartisan populists, campaigning against a corrupt political system. Although he lost many of the votes on the commission, businessman Charles “Tex” Thornton’s advocacy of law and order, and his professed fears of a white backlash, anticipated the conservative revival building on the horizon of American politics.

The Kerner Report represented the last gasp of 1960s liberalism—the last full-throated declaration that the federal government should play a leading role in solving deeply embedded problems such as racism and poverty. A Democratic Congress would continue to pass progressive legislation for the next decade, but none of it came close to the ambition and scope of the Kerner Commission recommendations.

Nevertheless, the Kerner Commission’s legacy is enduring, and its haunting prediction about America becoming two societies, separate and unequal, is as relevant today as it was five decades ago. Certainly, there is no denying that the nation achieved significant progress on some fronts since the commission released its report in 1968. There is now a thriving middle class, African Americans are better represented in the professions, and a majority of Americans twice elected an African American president. The influx of new immigrants since the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 has also made conversations about race in America more complicated. While the Kerner Commission discussed race solely in terms of black and white, today any meaningful dialogue must include other groups, most notably Hispanics and Asians. Tragically, however, much has remained the same. Those living in the poorest neighborhoods in large cities continue to be segregated from mainstream life and to face many of the same obvious signs of white neglect, even as they confront problems of drugs and gangs that are more acute than they were in the 1960s. Growing inequality, a massive shift of wealth to the rich, and the decline of high-paying manufacturing jobs in urban areas have compounded the misery.

Viewed in this context, the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014, along with the disorder that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal cord injury while in the custody of Baltimore police, have reignited the debate about race and unrest in America. Surprisingly, the arguments about the causes of such unrest, and the solutions, have changed little in the past fifty years. Much as they did in the 1960s, liberals blame systemic discrimination in employment, housing, and education, along with racial profiling and aggressive policing in black neighborhoods, for creating the conditions that led to the riots. Similarly, much as they did decades ago, conservative pundits argue that the riots were the result of a breakdown of law and order and an outgrowth of permissive and misguided liberals who had convinced blacks that they were victims of an oppressive society and therefore not responsible for their actions.

Given this stalemate and our deeply polarized politics, it seems unlikely that the nation’s political leadership will muster the will to even acknowledge the role of white racism in creating the conditions that caused the riots. Any realistic plan for using federal power to address racial injustice seems even more far-fetched. But in the unlikely event that the window of reform opens in the near future, the Kerner Commission’s findings will provide the nation with a useful guide to the depth and persistence of white racism, its recommendations will offer a possible road map for change, and its history will provide a cautionary tale about the limits of American liberalism.



ON THE EVENING OF JULY 12, 1967, police in Newark, New Jersey, pulled over John Smith, a forty-year-old African American taxi driver. According to the police, Smith became belligerent and abusive when they asked for his driver’s license, and at one point he punched one of the officers. They took him to the Fourth Precinct station house, where they dragged the 150-pound prisoner from the car and carried him through the front door, placed him in a cell, and charged him with assault and battery, resisting arrest, and loud and abusive language. Smith, however, challenged every aspect of the police account. “There was no resistance on my part,” he later told investigators. “That was a cover story by the police. They caved in my ribs, busted a hernia, and put a hole in my head.”1

There is no dispute, however, about what happened next. The Fourth Precinct sat across the street from the redbrick Hayes Homes, a public housing complex. Because it was a hot, muggy night, many residents were sitting outside, and a few watched as the police dragged Smith into the station. Some cabdrivers used their VHF radio band to spread rumors that white cops had just killed a black driver. An agitated crowd of two hundred, many of them teenagers, gathered outside the precinct and started taunting the police, tossing homemade Molotov cocktails and setting a car on fire. The crowd at the station soon dispersed, but looters ran through the streets, smashing windows and pulling fire alarms. By three in the morning, after pleas from local civil rights leaders, the streets of Newark fell silent. The following afternoon, the city’s Democratic mayor, Hugh Addonizio, dismissed the “isolated incidents” and assured residents the city was open for business. The violence, however, was far from over.

The next day, leaflets circulated around central Newark: “Stop Police Brutality. Come Out and Join Us at a Mass Rally Tonight, 7:30 p.m., Fourth Precinct.” The flyers attracted hundreds of protesters who, ignoring calls for peaceful protest, began roaming along Springfield Avenue, the city’s central business district, once again breaking windows, looting stores, and setting fires. Early on the morning of July 14, the mayor called New Jersey governor Richard J. Hughes, requesting that he declare Newark a disaster area and order the state police and the New Jersey National Guard to restore order.2

Within hours, state troopers along with heavily armed National Guardsmen seized control of the city, turning Newark into an armed camp. The guardsmen, 98 percent of whom were white, arrived in full combat gear, carrying loaded rifles. Unprepared for urban violence, nervous guardsmen and state police often fired indiscriminately at crowds and at apartment buildings where they suspected snipers were hiding. In most cases, they were shooting at shadows and at innocent bystanders. “Down in the Springfield Avenue area it was so bad,” police director Dominick Spina recalled, “that, in my opinion, guardsmen were firing upon police and police were firing back at them.” In some cases, the black-owned stores that had been spared by the looters were riddled with bullets of the police and soldiers.3

On the fourth day of rioting, Governor Hughes summoned Tom Hayden, a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society, who had been organizing in Newark for three years. Hayden told the governor that if he did not withdraw the National Guard, “the troops are gonna massacre more people, and you’re going to go down in history as one of the biggest killers of all time.” Apparently, Hughes heeded the advice: he withdrew the National Guard a few hours later. By the time the guardsmen left Newark on Monday, July 17, twenty-three people were dead, including six women and two children, and more than one thousand were injured.4

Just as the flames abated in Newark, racial tension in other cities exploded. Five more New Jersey cities—Plainfield, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Jersey City, and Englewood—began to stir. In Cairo, Illinois, firebombs lit up the night sky. In Minneapolis six hundred guardsmen were needed to impose order after two nights of rock throwing. Similar, though smaller, incidents occurred in two Iowa cities, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Other cities—West Fresno, California; Durham, North Carolina; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Nyack, New York—all witnessed unrest that required police action. But the most violent outbreak was yet to come.

On July 23, a week after the Newark riots ended, Detroit erupted after police raided five “blind pigs”—a term used to describe illegal after-hours clubs. One of the most popular blind pigs in the city was on the second floor of a printing company on the corner of Twelfth Street and Clairmount, behind a sign that read, “The United Civic League for Community Action.” At a quarter to four on the morning of July 23, a black plainclothes officer entered the club. He purchased a beer for fifty cents. Having caught the club selling alcohol illegally, he signaled to a group of fellow officers, who burst through the door. Police had expected to find two dozen patrons. Instead, they found eighty-two. The police herded the customers out on the street below. Even at four in the morning, however, Twelfth Street was bustling, and a crowd of fifty people was standing on the sidewalk in front of the printing company.

After the police left the scene, large crowds continued to mill around the neighborhood. Someone threw a trash can through a store window, and then hundreds of others joined in, tossing rocks and looting stores. The police returned but did nothing to stop the rioting. As word spread that the police were allowing looting, more people poured into the streets. With daybreak, thousands of people from all parts of the surrounding community joined in. The scene had a carnival atmosphere, with women, children, and older residents indulging in merchandise from local stores.

Television coverage of the Detroit riot frightened the nation. “Since Sunday morning, mobs of angry Negroes have paralyzed the city, spreading fire and destruction through large areas,” reported David Brinkley, the popular anchor of NBC’s Huntley Brinkley Report. “The turmoil has forced business to a standstill. Chrysler and General Motors suspended production of new cars.” A local correspondent on the scene spoke of the smoke that filled the air and the fires still burning in “a twelve-mile area of the nation’s fifth largest city.” Michigan Republican governor George Romney spoke directly to the camera, complaining about “uncontrollable arson, looting, and the threat to human life by snipers” in the city.5

Between eight and noon, the crowd swelled to eight or nine thousand, many of them angered by rumors that the police had bayoneted a black man and left him to die. Just after four, Governor Romney authorized deployment of the National Guard. Just as in Newark, however, the National Guard’s presence inflamed the situation. According to Newsweek, the guardsmen were “a ragged, jittery, hair-trigger lot, ill-trained in riot control.” It quoted one soldier as saying, “I’m going to shoot anything that moves and is black.” In one instance, a “flash from a window” (which turned out to be the lighting of a cigarette) brought a .50-caliber machine-gun burst from a National Guard tank that killed a four-year-old child.6

Reluctantly, President Johnson sent battle-hardened combat troops equipped with tanks, machine guns, and helicopters to enforce the peace. By the time it ended, forty-three people had been killed and more than two thousand buildings burned to the ground. “It looks like Berlin in 1945,” noted an observer. Newsweek called the riots “a symbol of a domestic crisis grown graver than any since the Civil War.” Detroit, it wrote, was “an American Tragedy.”7

Detroit’s outbreak was followed by a spate of eruptions in neighboring Michigan cities—Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Flint, Muskegon, West Michigan City, and Pontiac. By the end of July, nearly seventy cities had experienced racial disorders, forty in the final week of the month alone. As Time noted, “In the summer of 1967, ‘it’ can happen anywhere, and sometimes seems to be happening everywhere.”8

DETROIT EFFECTIVELY SERVED AS AN exclamation mark on three consecutive summers of racial discontent in American cities. In 1964 riots in the Harlem and the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of New York erupted during five days in July. The Harlem riot left 1 dead, 118 injured, 465 arrested, and millions of dollars in property damage. A few days later, a riot broke out in Rochester, New York, forcing Governor Nelson Rockefeller to mobilize 1,000 National Guardsmen. On August 28, riots erupted in Philadelphia when police arrested an African American woman who was blocking traffic in a busy intersection. For three days the rioting continued, leaving 2 dead, 339 injured, and 308 arrested.9

The following year, 1965, the first major riot of the decade exploded in the Watts section of Los Angeles. “If a single event can be picked to mark the dividing line” of the ’60s, Life later editorialized, “it was Watts.”10

The unrest began on the evening of August 11, when a white police officer stopped a car driven by a twenty-one-year-old black man. When the man resisted arrest, a crowd gathered, forcing police to summon reinforcements. Within an hour, 1,000 residents of the predominately black suburb were on the street, hurling rocks and bottles at the cops and shouting, “Burn, baby, burn!” For four nights, marauding mobs burned buildings, while 500 policemen and 5,000 National Guardsmen struggled to contain the fury. Before the rioting ended, 34 were dead, nearly 4,000 were arrested, and property damage had reached $45 million. It took 14,000 National Guardsmen and several thousand local police six days to stop the arson, looting, and sniping.

The violence continued the following year, when thirty-eight disorders destroyed ghetto neighborhoods in cities from San Francisco to Providence, Rhode Island, during the summer of 1966. In all, the unrest resulted in 7 deaths, 400 injuries, and $5 million in property damage. Images of young black men looting stores while shouting “Burn, baby, burn!” sent shock waves through white society. None of the individual riots matched the intensity of the Watts riot, but combined they made 1966 the most violent year yet.

Why were the nation’s cities exploding? The riots of the 1960s were different from those that had occurred earlier in the century. During World War I–era “race riots” in East St. Louis (1917) and Chicago (1919), whites had invaded African American neighborhoods and assaulted residents. In 1921 a white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma, destroyed a square mile of a black neighborhood. World War II witnessed more than a dozen such race riots. In Detroit a clash between white and black youths in June 1943 ended with 34 dead, 25 of them African Americans. A disturbance in Harlem three months earlier, however, anticipated features of the 1960s riots. The violence there commenced after a white police officer tried to arrest an African American woman. The situation escalated and resulted in gangs of black youth roaming the streets, looting stores, and attacking white-owned businesses.11

In most cases, the official investigations of these earlier riots had blamed criminals and “riffraff,” refused to criticize the police for often using excessive force, and downplayed evidence that racism, discrimination, and the unequal treatment of African Americans lay at the heart of the riots. The commission investigating the 1919 Chicago riot blamed the disturbances on “gangs of hoodlums.” The official governor’s report on the 1943 Detroit riot placed responsibility on black leaders for instigating the violence and on the black news media for spreading false rumors. While these reports dominated the headlines, separate investigations by black groups went largely unnoticed. For instance, Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), launched his own study of the Detroit riot, which concluded, “Much of the blood spilled in the Detroit riot is on the hands of the Detroit police department.”12

The same pattern held true for the initial official investigations of the 1960s disturbances. Many Americans took comfort in the findings of the McCone Commission, established by California governor Pat Brown and headed by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John McCone, which studied the causes of the Watts riot. It had concluded that the riot was a “senseless” act of violence whipped up by a handful of alienated blacks. American society and its institutions were sound, the commission concluded. The violence was the result of a small group of agitators and was not representative of black opinion in America.13


  • "How did a government document that black radicals anticipated would be a whitewash end up instead denouncing 'white racism'? This improbable turn of events animates Steven M. Gillon's deft, incisive, and altogether absorbing history of the Kerner Commission, which he convincingly depicts as 'the last gasp of 1960s liberalism'...Meticulous."—Atlantic
  • "In Separate and Unequal, Steven M. Gillon...tells the fraught story of the commission, its recommendations and American race relations in the five decades since. His book is sophisticated, fair-minded-and a bracing corrective to complacency about racial reconciliation in America."—Wall Street Journal
  • "While solutions to poverty and discrimination are far from the national political agenda, the history of the Kerner Report reminds us that liberals and the left can still influence policy from the margins."—Nation
  • "Boldly written...The hard lesson being driven home by Gillon is that race relations and preservation of social decency are extraordinarily complex problems. They lack simple and immediate reconciliation. The conundrum has only grown since the Kerner Commission."—New York Journal of Books
  • "[A] compelling new history of the commission.... The Kerner Commission was right about race in America, but its very ambitions enabled the backlash against much of what it hoped to achieve."—Washington Post
  • "Racism remains a deeply troubling aspect of American history and culture, and Gillon's...excellent history of the 1967-68 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, more popularly known as the Kerner Commission, provides historical insight on today's political climate...Exceptionally well-researched and timely."—Library Journal (starred review)
  • "Gillon's research about the Kerner Commission, bolstered by hours of interviews with the surviving members, is extremely well-documented and also offers the feel of being ripped from today's headlines.... Well-rendered popular American history that also speaks to present-day issues."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Gillon's thought-provoking look into the Kerner Commission provides great insight into race issues of 1960s America."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Steven Gillon's timely book, Separate and Unequal, is a compelling reminder that America remains a racially divided country.... Every lawmaker and every fair-minded citizen should read Gillon's history."—Robert Dallek
  • "Separate and Unequal is an enormously impressive book. Steven Gillon tells a compellingly granular story about the so-called Kerner Commission's inner workings in 1967-1968.... And he employs his formidable story-telling skills to draw out the lasting historical consequences."—David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus, Stanford University
  • "Steven Gillon delivers a riveting read about a devastating challenge to the confident liberalism of the sixties.... This fascinating book illuminates both the 1960s and our own times."—Laura Kalman, professor of history, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • "Steven Gillon captures both the promise still viable in 1968 as well as the emergence of the 'post-civil rights'racial and political order that dominates American life today. It is a timely and essential book." —Patricia Sullivan, author of Lift Every Voice and professor of history, University of South Carolina
  • "In our toxic and dispiriting time, Separate and Unequal is an important reminder that social and racial progress is uneven and subject to setbacks like the one suffered after the release of the Kerner Report. But Steven Gillon's surprising story of dogged liberal politicians and journalists also shows that well-framed social arguments can change the debate forever." —Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemiesspan
  • "When the African American freedom struggle moved north, the Great Society coalition fell apart. Fifty years on, Steven Gillon reconstructs that dramatic story with his trademark brio and deep research, chronicling both the immediate and the enduring political consequences."—Gareth Davies, Associate Professor of American History, Oxford University

On Sale
Mar 6, 2018
Page Count
400 pages
Basic Books

Steven M. Gillon

About the Author

Steve M. Gillon is a scholar-in-residence for the History Channel and a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma. The author of several books on American history, including the New York Times bestelling America’s Reluctant Prince, he lives in Miami Beach, Florida.

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