American Experience

The Riot Report

Season 36  Episode 5

When Black neighborhoods in scores of cities erupted in violence during the summer of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders - informally known as the Kerner Commission - to answer three questions: What happened? Why did it happen? And what could be done to prevent it from happening again? The bi-partisan commission’s final report, issued in March of 1968, would offer a shockingly unvarnished assessment of American race relations - a verdict so politically explosive that Johnson not only refused to acknowledge it publicly, but even to thank the commissioners for their service.

THE RIOT REPORT explores this pivotal moment in the nation’s history and the fraught social dynamics that simultaneously spurred the commission’s investigation and doomed its findings to political oblivion.