OF THE NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMISSION ON CIVIL DISORDERS
The summer of 1967
again brought racial disorders to American cities, and with
them shock, fear and bewilderment to the nation.
The worst came during
a two-week period in July, first in Newark and then in Detroit.
Each set off a chain reaction in neighboring communities.
On July 28, 1967,
the President of the United States established this Commission
and directed us to answer three basic questions:
Why did it happen?
What can be done
to prevent it from happening again?
To respond to these
questions, we have undertaken a broad range of studies and
investigations. We have visited the riot cities; we have heard
many witnesses; we have sought the counsel of experts across
the country. .
This is our basic
conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one
black, one white--separate and unequal.
Reaction to last
summer's disorders has quickened the movement and deepened
the division. Discrimination and segregation have long permeated
much of American life; they now threaten the future of every
This deepening racial
division is not inevitable. The movement apart can be reversed.
Choice is still possible. Our principal task is to define
that choice and to press for a national resolution.
To pursue our present
course will involve the continuing polarization of the American
community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic
is not blind repression or capitulation to lawlessness. It
is the realization of common opportunities for all within
a single society.
will require a commitment to national action--compassionate,
massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most
powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every
American it will require new attitudes, new understanding,
and, above all, new will.
The vital needs
of the nation must be met; hard choices must be made, and,
if necessary, new taxes enacted.
build a better society. Disruption and disorder nourish repression,
not justice. They strike at the freedom of every citizen.
The community cannot--it will not--tolerate coercion and
destruction must be ended--in the streets of the ghetto and
in the lives of people.
poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment
totally unknown to most white Americans.
What white Americans
have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget--is
that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White
institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and
white society condones it.
It is time now to
turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished
business of this nation. It is time to adopt strategies for
action that will produce quick and visible progress. It is
time to make good the promises of American democracy to all
citizens-urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname,
American Indian, and every minority group.
embrace three basic principles:
* To mount programs
on a scale equal to the dimension of the problems:
* To aim these programs
for high impact in the immediate future in order to close
the gap between promise and performance;
* To undertake new
initiatives and experiments that can change the system of
failure and frustration that now dominates the ghetto and
weakens our society.
These programs will
require unprecedented levels of funding and performance, but
they neither probe deeper nor demand more than the problems
which called them forth. There can be no higher priority for
national action and no higher claim on the nation's conscience.
We issue this Report
now, four months before the date called for by the President.
Much remains that can be learned. Continued study is essential.
we have worked together with a sense of the greatest urgency
and have sought to compose whatever differences exist among
us. Some differences remain. But the gravity of the problem
and the pressing need for action are too clear to allow further
delay in the issuance of this Report.
Chapter I--Profiles of Disorder
The report contains
profiles of a selection of the disorders that took place during
the summer of 1967. These profiles are designed to indicate
how the disorders happened, who participated in them, and
how local officials, police forces, and the National Guard
responded. Illustrative excerpts follow:
. . . It was decided to attempt to channel
the energies of the people into a nonviolent protest. While
Lofton promised the crowd that a full investigation would
be made of the Smith incident, the other Negro leaders began
urging those on the scene to form a line of march toward the
Some persons joined
the line of march. Others milled about in the narrow street.
From the dark grounds of the housing project came a barrage
of rocks. Some of them fell among the crowd. Others hit persons
in the line of march. Many smashed the windows of the police
station. The rock throwing, it was believed, was the work
of youngsters; approximately 2,500 children lived in the
Almost at the same
time, an old car was set afire in a parking lot. The line
of march began to disintegrate. The police, their heads protected
by World War I-type helmets, sallied forth to disperse the
crowd. A fire engine, arriving on the scene, was pelted with
rocks. As police drove people away from the station, they
scattered in all directions.
A few minutes later
a nearby liquor store was broken into. Some persons, seeing
a caravan of cabs appear at city hall to protest Smith's arrest,
interpreted this as evidence that the disturbance had been
organized, and generated rumors to that effect. However,
only a few stores were looted. Within a short period of time,
the disorder appeared to have run its course.
. . . On Saturday, July 15, [Director of Police
Dominick] Spina received a report of snipers in a housing
project. When he arrived he saw approximately 100 National
Guardsmen and police officers crouching behind vehicles,
hiding in corners and lying on the ground around the edge
of the courtyard.
appeared quiet and it was broad daylight, Spina walked directly
down the middle of the street. Nothing happened. As he came
to the last building of the complex, he heard a shot. All
around him the troopers jumped, believing themselves to be
under sniper fire. A moment later a young Guardsman ran from
behind a building.
The Director of
Police went over and asked him if he had fired the shot. The
soldier said yes, he had fired to scare a man away from a
window; that his orders were to keep everyone away from windows.
Spina said he told
the soldier: "Do you know what you just did? You have
now created a state of hysteria. Every Guardsman up and down
this street and every state policeman and every city policeman
that is present thinks that somebody just fired a shot and
that it is probably a sniper."
A short time later
more "gunshots" were heard. Investigating, Spina
came upon a Puerto Rican sitting on a wall. In reply to a
question as to whether he knew "where the firing is coming
from?" the man said:
firing. That's fireworks. If you look up to the fourth floor,
you will see the people who are throwing down these cherry
By this time four
truckloads of National Guardsmen had arrived and troopers
and policemen were again crouched everywhere looking for
a sniper. The Director of Police remained at the scene for
three hours, and the only shot fired was the one by the Guardsman.
six o'clock that evening two columns of National Guardsmen
and state troopers were directing mass fire at the Hayes Housing
Project in response to what they believed were snipers. .
. . . A spirit of carefree nihilism was taking
hold. To riot and destroy appeared more and more to become
ends in themselves. Late Sunday afternoon it appeared to
one observer that the young people were "dancing amidst
A Negro plainclothes
officer was standing at an intersection when a man threw a
Molotov cocktail into a business establishment at the corner...
In the heat of the afternoon, fanned by the 20 to 25 m.p.h.
winds of both Sunday and Monday, the fire reached the home
next door within minutes. As residents uselessly sprayed
the flames with garden hoses, the fire jumped from roof to
roof of adjacent two- and three-story buildings. Within the
hour the entire block was in flames. The ninth house in the
burning row belonged to the arsonist who had thrown the Molotov
cocktail. . . .
. . . Employed as a private guard, 55-year-old
Julius L. Dorsey, a Negro, was standing in front of a market
when accosted by two Negro men and a woman. They demanded
he permit them to loot the market. He ignored their demands.
They began to berate him. He asked a neighbor to call the
police. As the argument grew more heated, Dorsey fired three
shots from his pistol into the air.
The police radio
reported: "Looters, they have rifles." A patrol
car driven by a police officer and carrying three National
Guardsmen arrived. As the looters fled, the law enforcement
personnel opened fire. When the firing ceased, one person
He was Julius L.
Dorsey. . .
. . . As the riot
alternately waxed and waned, one area of the ghetto remained
insulated. On the northeast side the residents of some 150
square blocks inhabited by 21,000 persons had, in 1966, banded
together in the Positive Neighborhood Action Committee (PNAC).
With professional help from the Institute of Urban Dynamics,
they had organized block clubs and made plans for the improvement
of the neighborhood. . . .
When the riot broke
out, the residents, through the block clubs, were able to
organize quickly. Youngsters, agreeing to stay in the neighborhood,
participated in detouring traffic. While many persons reportedly
sympathized with the idea of a rebellion against the "system,"
only two small fires were set--one in an empty building.
. . . According
to Lt. Gen. Throckmorton and Col. Bolling, the city, at this
time, was saturated with fear. The National Guardsmen were
afraid, the residents were afraid, and the police were afraid.
Numerous persons, the majority of them Negroes, were being
injured by gunshots of undetermined origin. The general and
his staff felt that the major task of the troops was to reduce
the fear and restore an air of normalcy.
In order to accomplish
this, every effort was made to establish contact and rapport
between the troops and the residents. The soldiers--20 percent
of whom were Negro--began helping to clean up the streets,
collect garbage, and trace persons who had disappeared in
the confusion. Residents in the neighborhoods responded with
soup and sandwiches for the troops. In areas where the National
Guard tried to establish rapport with the citizens, there
was a smaller response.
. . . A short time later, elements of the
crowd--an older and rougher one than the night before--appeared
in front of the police station. The participants wanted to
see the mayor.
Sheehan went out onto the steps of the station. Using a bullhorn,
she talked to the people and asked that she be given an opportunity
to correct conditions. The crowd was boisterous. Some persons
challenged the mayor. But, finally, the opinion, "She's
new! Give her a chance!" prevailed.
A demand was issued
by people in the crowd that all persons arrested the previous
night be released. Told that this already had been done, the
people were suspicious. They asked to be allowed to inspect
the jail cells.
It was agreed to
permit representatives of the people to look in the cells
to satisfy themselves that everyone had been released.
The crowd dispersed.
The New Brunswick riot had failed to materialize. .
Chapter 2--Patterns of Disorder
riot did not take place. The disorders of 1967 were unusual,
irregular, complex and unpredictable social processes. Like
most human events, they did not unfold in an orderly sequence.
However, an analysis of our survey information leads to some
conclusions about the riot process. In general:
* The civil disorders
of 1967 involved Negroes acting against local symbols of white
American society, authority and property in Negro neighborhoods--rather
than against white persons.
* Of 164 disorders
reported during the first nine months of 1967, eight (5 percent)
were major in terms of violence and damage; 33 (20 percent)
were serious but not major; 123 (75 percent) were minor and
undoubtedly would not have received national attention as
"riots" had the nation not been sensitized by the
more serious outbreaks.
* In the 75 disorders
studied by a Senate subcommittee, 83 deaths were reported.
Eighty-two percent of the deaths and more than half the injuries
occurred in Newark and Detroit. About 10 percent of the dead
and 38 percent of the injured were public employees, primarily
law officers and firemen. The overwhelming majority of the
persons killed or injured in all the disorders were Negro
* Initial damage
estimates were greatly exaggerated. In Detroit, newspaper
damage estimates at first ranged from $200 million to $500
million; the highest recent estimate is $45 million. In Newark,
early estimates ranged from $15 to $25 million. A month later
damage was estimated at $10.2 million, over 80 percent in
In the 24 disorders
in 23 cities which we surveyed:
* The final incident
before the outbreak of disorder, and the initial violence
itself, generally took place in the evening or at night at
a place in which it was normal for many people to be on the
* Violence usually
occurred almost immediately following the occurrence of the
final precipitating incident, and then escalated rapidly.
With but few exceptions, violence subsided during the day,
and flared rapidly again at night. The night-day cycles continued
through the early period of the major disorders.
* Disorder generally
began with rock and bottle throwing and window breaking.
Once store windows were broken, looting usually followed.
* Disorder did not
erupt as a result of a single "triggering" or "precipitating"
incident. Instead, it was generated out of an increasingly
disturbed social atmosphere, in which typically a series of
tension-heightening incidents over a period of weeks or months
became linked in the minds of many in the Negro community
with a reservoir of underlying grievances. At some point in
the mounting tension, a further incident-in itself often routine
or trivial-became the breaking point and the tension spilled
over into violence.
incidents, which increased tensions and ultimately led to
violence, were police actions in almost half the cases; police
actions were "final" incidents before the outbreak
of violence in 12 of the 24 surveyed disorders.
* No particular
control tactic was successful in every situation. The varied
effectiveness of control techniques emphasizes the need for
advance training, planning, adequate intelligence systems,
and knowledge of the ghetto community.
* Negotiations between
Negroes--including your militants as well as older Negro leaders--and
white officials concerning "terms of peace" occurred
during virtually all the disorders surveyed. In many cases,
these negotiations involved discussion of underlying grievances
as well as the handling of the disorder by control authorities.
* The typical rioter
was a teenager or young adult, a lifelong resident of the
city in which he rioted, a high school dropout; he was, nevertheless,
somewhat better educated than his nonrioting Negro neighbor,
and was usually underemployed or employed in a menial job.
He was proud of his race, extremely hostile to both whites
and middle-class Negroes and, although informed about politics,
highly distrustful of the political system.
* A Detroit survey
revealed that approximately 11 percent of the total residents
of two riot areas admitted participation in the rioting,
20 to 25 percent identified themselves as "bystanders,"
over 16 percent identified themselves as "counter-rioters"
who urged rioters to "cool it," and the remaining
48 to 53 percent said they were at home or elsewhere and did
not participate. In a survey of Negro males between the ages
of 15 and 35 residing in the disturbance area in Newark,
about 45 percent identified themselves as rioters, and about
55 percent as "noninvolved."
* Most rioters were
young Negro males. Nearly 53 percent of arrestees were between
15 and 24 years of age; nearly 81 percent between 15 and
* In Detroit and
Newark about 74 percent of the rioters were brought up in
the North. In contrast, of the noninvolved, 36 percent in
Detroit and 52 percent in Newark were brought up in the North.
* What the rioters
appeared to be seeking was fuller participation in the social
order and the material benefits enjoyed by the majority of
American citizens. Rather than rejecting the American system,
they were anxious to obtain a place for themselves in it.
* Numerous Negro
counter-rioters walked the streets urging rioters to "cool
it." The typical counter-rioter was better educated and
had higher income than either the rioter or the noninvolved.
* The proportion
of Negroes in local government was substantially smaller than
the Negro proportion of population. Only three of the 20 cities
studied had more than one Negro legislator; none had ever
had a Negro mayor or city manager. In only four cities did
Negroes hold other important policy-making positions or serve
as heads of municipal departments.
* Although almost
all cities had some sort of formal grievance mechanism for
handling citizen complaints, this typically was regarded by
Negroes as ineffective and was generally ignored.
* Although specific
grievances varied from city to city, at least 12 deeply held
grievances can be identified and ranked into three levels
of relative intensity: '
First Level of
1. Police practices
3. Inadequate housing
4. Inadequate education
5. Poor recreation
facilities and programs
of the political structure and grievance mechanisms
Third Level of
administration of justice
9. Inadequacy of
10. Inadequacy of
consumer and credit practices
12. Inadequate welfare
* The results of
a three-city survey of various federal programs--manpower,
education, housing, welfare and community action--indicate
that, despite substantial expenditures, the number of persons
assisted constituted only a fraction of those in need.
The background of
disorder is often as complex and difficult to analyze as the
disorder itself. But we find that certain general conclusions
can be drawn:
* Social and economic
conditions in the riot cities constituted a clear pattern
of severe disadvantage for Negroes compared with whites, whether
the Negroes lived in the area where the riot took place or
outside it. Negroes had completed fewer years of education
and fewer had attended high school. Negroes were twice as
likely to be unemployed and three times as likely to be in
unskilled and service jobs. Negroes averaged 70 percent of
the income earned by whites and were more than twice as likely
to be living in poverty. Although housing cost Negroes relatively
more, they had worse housing-three times as likely to be overcrowded
and substandard. When compared to white suburbs, the relative
disadvantage is even more pronounced.
A study of the aftermath
of disorder leads to disturbing conclusions. We find that,
despite the institution of some postriot programs:
* Little basic change
in the conditions underlying the outbreak of disorder has
taken place. Actions to ameliorate Negro grievances have been
limited and sporadic; with but few exceptions, they have not
significantly reduced tensions.
* In several cities,
the principal official response has been to train and equip
the police with more sophisticated weapons. In several cities,
increasing polarization is evident, with continuing breakdown
of inter-racial communication, and growth of white segregationist
or black separatist groups.
Chapter 3--Organized Activity
The President directed
the Commission to investigate "to, what extent, if any,
there has been planning or organization in any of the riots."
To carry out this
part of the President's charge, the Commission established
a special investigative staff supplementing the field teams
that made the general examination of the riots in 23 cities.
The unit examined data collected by federal agencies and congressional
committees, including thousands of documents supplied by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, gathered and evaluated information
from local and state law enforcement agencies and officials,
and conducted its own field investigation in selected cities.
On the basis of
all the information collected, the Commission concludes that:
The urban disorders
of the summer of 1967 were not caused by, nor were they the
consequence of, any organized plan or "conspiracy."
Commission has found no evidence that all or any of the disorders
or the incidents that led to them were planned or directed
by any organization or group, international, national or
local and national, and individual agitators, who repeatedly
forecast and called for violence, were active in the spring
and summer of 1967. We believe that they sought to encourage
violence, and that they helped to create an atmosphere that
contributed to the outbreak of disorder.
We recognize that
the continuation of disorders and the polarization of the
races would provide fertile ground for organized exploitation
in the future.
organized activity are continuing at all levels of government,
including committees of Congress. These investigations relate
not only to the disorders of 1967 but also to the actions
of groups and individuals, particularly in schools and colleges,
during this last fall and winter. The Commission has cooperated
in these investigations. They should continue.
II--WHY DID IT HAPPEN?
Chapter 4--The Basic Causes
In addressing the
question "Why did it happen?" we shift our focus
from the local to the national scene, from the particular
events of the summer of 1967 to the factors within the society
at large that created a mood of violence among many urban
These factors are
complex and interacting; they vary significantly in their
effect from city to city and from year to year; and the consequences
of one disorder, generating new grievances and new demands,
become the causes of the next. Thus was created the "thicket
of tension, conflicting evidence and extreme opinions"
cited by the President.
Despite these complexities,
certain fundamental matters are clear. Of these, the most
fundamental is the racial attitude and behavior of white Americans
toward black Americans.
Race prejudice has
shaped our history decisively; it now threatens to affect
White racism is
essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has
been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War
II. Among the ingredients of this mixture are:
* Pervasive discrimination
and segregation in employment, education and housing, which
have resulted in the continuing exclusion of great numbers
of Negroes from the benefits of economic progress.
* Black in-migration
and white exodus, .which have produced the massive and growing
concentrations of impoverished Negroes in our major cities,
creating a growing crisis of deteriorating facilities and
services and unmet human needs.
* The black ghettos
where segregation and poverty converge on the young to destroy
opportunity and enforce failure. Crime, drug addiction, dependency
on welfare, and bitterness and resentment against society
in general and white society in particular are the result.
At the same time,
most whites and some Negroes outside the ghetto have prospered
to a degree unparalleled in the history of civilization.
Through television and other media, this affluence has been
flaunted before the eyes of the Negro poor and the jobless
Yet these facts
alone cannot be said to have caused the disorders. Recently,
other powerful ingredients have begun to catalyze the mixture:
* Frustrated hopes
are the residue of the unfulfilled expectations aroused by
the great judicial and legislative victories of the Civil
Rights Movement and the dramatic struggle for equal rights
in the South.
* A climate that
tends toward approval and encouragement of violence as a form
of protest has been created by white terrorism directed against
nonviolent protest; by the open defiance of law and federal
authority by state and local officials resisting desegregation;
and by some protest groups engaging in civil disobedience
who turn their backs on nonviolence, go beyond the constitutionally
protected rights of petition and free assembly, and resort
to violence to attempt to compel alteration of laws and policies
with which they disagree.
* The frustrations
of powerlessness have led some Negroes to the conviction that
there is no effective alternative to violence as a means of
achieving redress of grievances, and of "moving the system."
These frustrations are reflected in alienation and hostility
toward the institutions of law and government and the white
society which controls them, and in the reach toward racial
consciousness and solidarity reflected in the slogan "Black
* A new mood has
sprung up among Negroes, particularly among the young, in
which self-esteem and enhanced racial pride are replacing
apathy and submission to "the system.”
* The police are
not merely a "spark" factor. To some Negroes police
have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white
repression. And the fact is that many police do reflect and
express these white attitudes. The atmosphere of hostility
and cynicism is reinforced by a widespread belief among Negroes
in the existence of police brutality and in a "double
standard" of justice and protection--one for Negroes
and one for whites.
To this point, we
have attempted to identify the prime components of the "explosive
mixture." In the chapters that follow we seek to analyze
them in the perspective of history. Their meaning, however,
In the summer of
1967, we have seen in our cities a chain reaction of racial
violence. If we are heedless, none of us shall escape the
Chapter 5--Rejection and Protest: An Historical
The causes of recent
racial disorders are embedded in a tangle of issues and circumstances--social,
economic, political and psychological which arise out of the
historic pattern of Negro-white relations in America.
In this chapter
we trace the pattern, identify the recurrent themes of Negro
protest and, most importantly, provide a perspective on the
protest activities of the present era.
We describe the
Negro's experience in America and the development of slavery
as an institution. We show his persistent striving for equality
in the face of rigidly maintained social, economic and educational
barriers, and repeated mob violence. We portray the ebb and
flow of the doctrinal tides--accommodation, separatism, and
self-help--and their relationship to the current theme of
Black Power. We conclude:
The Black Power
advocates of today consciously feel that they are the most
militant group in the Negro protest movement. Yet they have
retreated from a direct confrontation with American society
on the issue of integration and, by preaching separatism,
unconsciously function as an accommodation to white racism.
Much of their economic program, as well as their interest
in Negro history, self-help, racial solidarity and separation,
is reminiscent of Booker T. Washington. The rhetoric is different,
but the ideas are remarkably similar.
Chapter 6--The Formation Of the Racial
Throughout the 20th
century the Negro population of the United States has been
moving steadily from rural areas to urban and from South to
North and West. In 1910, 91 percent of the nation's 9.8 million
Negroes lived in the South and only 27 percent of American
Negroes lived in cities of 2,500 persons or more. Between
1910 and 1966 the total Negro population more than doubled,
reaching 21.5 million, and the number living in metropolitan
areas rose more than fivefold (from 2.6 million to 14.8 million).
The number outside the South rose eleven-fold (from 880,000
to 9.7 million).
from the South has resulted from the expectation of thousands
of new and highly paid jobs for unskilled workers in the North
and the shift to mechanized farming in the South. However,
the Negro migration is small when compared to earlier waves
of European immigrants. Even between 1960 and 1966, there
were 1.8 million immigrants from abroad compared to the 613,000
Negroes who arrived in the North and West from the South.
As a result of the
growing number of Negroes in urban areas, natural increase
has replaced migration as the primary source of Negro population
increase in the cities. Nevertheless, Negro migration from
the South will continue unless economic conditions there change
Basic data concerning
Negro urbanization trends indicate that:
* Almost all Negro
population growth (98 percent from 1950 to 1966) is occurring
within metropolitan areas, primarily within central cities.
* The vast majority
of white population growth (78 percent from 1960 to 1966)
is occurring in suburban portions of metropolitan areas. Since
1960, white central-city population has declined by 1.3 million.
* As a result, central
cities are becoming more heavily Negro while the suburban
fringes around them remain almost entirely white.
* The twelve largest
central cities now contain over two-thirds of the Negro population
outside the South, and one-third of the Negro total in the
Within the cities,
Negroes have been excluded from white residential areas through
discriminatory practices. Just as significant is the withdrawal
of white families from, or their refusal to enter, neighborhoods
where Negroes are moving or already residing. About 20 percent
of the urban population of the United States changes residence
every year. The refusal of whites to move into "changing"
areas when vacancies occur means that most vacancies eventually
are occupied by Negroes.
The result, according
to a recent study, is that in 1960 the average segregation
index for 207 of the largest United States cities was 86.2.
In other words, to create an unsegregated population distribution,
an average of over 86 percent of all Negroes would have to
change their place of residence within the city.
Chapter 7—Unemployment, Family Structure,
and Social Disorganization
have been gains in Negro income nationally, and a decline
in the number of Negroes below the "poverty level,"
the condition of Negroes ill the central city remains in a
state of crisis. Between 2 and 2.5 million Negroes-16 to 20
percent of the total Negro population of all central cities
live in squalor and deprivation in ghetto neighborhoods.
Employment is a
key problem. It not only controls the present for the Negro
American but, in a most profound way, it is creating the future
as well. Yet, despite continuing economic growth and declining
national unemployment rates, the unemployment rate for Negroes
in 1967 was more than double that for whites. .
is the undesirable nature of many jobs open to Negroes and
other minorities. Negro men are more than three times as likely
as white men to be in low paying, unskilled or service jobs.
This concentration of male Negro employment at the lowest
end of the occupational scale is the single most important
cause of poverty among Negroes.
In one study of
low-income neighborhoods, the "subemployment rate,"
including both unemployment and underemployment, was about
33 percent, or 8.8 times greater than the overall unemployment
rate for all United States workers.
aggravated by the constant arrival of new unemployed migrants,
many of them from depressed rural areas, create persistent
poverty in the ghetto. In 1966, about 11.9 percent of the
nation's whites and 40.6 percent of its nonwhites were below
the "poverty level" defined by' the Social Security
Administration (currently $3,335 per year for an urban family
of four). Over 40 percent of the nonwhites below the poverty
level live in the central cities.
have drastic social impact in the ghetto. Men who are chronically
unemployed or employed in the lowest status jobs are often
unable or unwilling to remain with their families. The handicap
imposed on children growing up without fathers in an atmosphere
of poverty and deprivation is increased as mothers are forced
to work to provide support. .
The culture of poverty
that results from unemployment and family breakup generates
a system of ruthless, exploitative relationships within the
ghetto. Prostitution, dope addiction, and crime create an
environmental "jungle" characterized by personal
insecurity and tension. Children growing up under such conditions
are likely participants in civil disorder.
Chapter 8--Conditions of Life In the Racial
A striking difference
in environment from that of white, middle-class Americans
profoundly influences the lives of residents of the ghetto.
Crime rates, consistently
higher than in other areas, create a pronounced sense of insecurity.
For example, in one city one low-income Negro district had
35 times as many serious crimes against persons as a high-income
white district. Unless drastic steps are taken, the crime
problems in poverty areas are likely to continue to multiply
as the growing youth and rapid urbanization of the population
outstrip police resources.
Poor health and
sanitation conditions in the ghetto result in higher mortality
rates, a higher incidence of major diseases, and lower availability
and utilization of medical services. The infant mortality
rate for nonwhite babies under the age of one month is 58
percent higher than for whites; for one to 12 months it is
almost three times as high. The level of sanitation in the
ghetto is far below that in high income areas. Garbage collection
is often inadequate. Of an estimated 14,000 cases of rat bite
in the United States in 1965, most were in ghetto neighborhoods.
believe they are "exploited" by local merchants;
and evidence substantiates some of these beliefs. A study
conducted in one city by the Federal Trade Commission showed
that distinctly higher prices were charged for goods sold
in ghetto stores than in other areas.
Lack of knowledge
regarding credit purchasing creates special pitfalls for
the disadvantaged. In many states garnishment practices compound
these difficulties by allowing creditors to deprive individuals
of their wages without hearing or trial.
Chapter 9--Comparing the Immigrant and
In this chapter,
we address ourselves to a fundamental question that many
white Americans are asking: why have so many Negroes, unlike
the European immigrants, been unable to escape from the ghetto
and from poverty. We believe the following factors play a
* The Maturing Economy:
When the European immigrants arrived, they gained an economic
foothold by providing the unskilled labor needed by industry.
Unlike the immigrant, the Negro migrant found little opportunity
in the city. The economy, by then matured, had little use
for the unskilled labor he had to offer.
of Race: The structure of discrimination has stringently
narrowed opportunities for the Negro and restricted his prospects.
European immigrants suffered from discrimination, but never
so pervasively. .
* Entry into the
Political System: The immigrants usually settled in rapidly
growing cities with powerful and expanding political machines,
which traded economic advantages for political support. Ward-level
grievance machinery, as well as personal representation,
enabled the immigrant to make his voice heard and his power
By the time
the Negro arrived, these political machines were no longer
so powerful or so well equipped to provide jobs or other favors,
and in many cases were unwilling to share their influence
* Cultural Factors:
Coming from societies with a low standard of living and at
a time when job aspirations were low, the immigrants sensed
little deprivation in being forced to take the less desirable
and poorer-paying jobs. Their large and cohesive families
contributed to total income. Their vision of the future--one
that led to a life outside of the ghetto--provided the incentive
necessary to endure the present.
men worked as hard as the immigrants, they were unable to
support their families. The entrepreneurial opportunities
had vanished. As a result of slavery and long periods of unemployment,
the Negro family structure had become matriarchal; the males
played a secondary and marginal family role--one which offered
little compensation for their hard and unrewarding labor.
Above all, segregation denied Negroes access to good jobs
and the opportunity to leave the ghetto. For them, the future
seemed to lead only to a dead end.
Today, whites tend
to exaggerate how well and quickly they escaped from poverty.
The fact is that immigrants who came from rural backgrounds,
as many Negroes do, are only now, after three generations,
finally beginning to move into the middle class.
By contrast, Negroes
began concentrating in the city less than two generations
ago, and under much less favorable conditions. Although some
Negroes have escaped poverty, few have been able to escape
the urban ghetto.
III—WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Chapter 10--The Community Response
of the 1967 riot cities establishes that virtually every major
episode of violence was foreshadowed by an accumulation of
unresolved grievances and by widespread dissatisfaction among
Negroes with the unwillingness or inability of local government
conditions is essential for community support of law enforcement
and civil order. City governments need new and more vital
channels of communication to the residents of the ghetto;
they need to improve their capacity to respond effectively
to community needs before they become community grievances;
and they need to provide opportunity for, meaningful involvement
of ghetto residents in shaping policies and programs which
affect the community.
The Commission recommends
that local governments:
* Develop Neighborhood
Action Task Forces as joint community government efforts
through which more effective communication can be achieved,
and the delivery of city services to ghetto residents improved.
* Establish comprehensive
grievance-response mechanisms in order to bring all public
agencies under public scrutiny.
* Bring the institutions
of local government closer to the people they serve by establishing
neighborhood outlets for local, state and federal administrative
and public service agencies.
* Expand opportunities
for ghetto residents to participate in the formulation of
public policy and the implementation of programs affecting
them through improved political representation, creation of
institutional channels for community action, expansion of
legal services, and legislative hearings on ghetto problems.
In this effort,
city governments will require state and federal support.
* State and federal
financial assistance for mayors and city councils to support
the research, consultants, staff and other resources needed
to respond effectively to federal program initiatives.
* State cooperation
in providing municipalities with the jurisdictional tools
needed to deal with their problems; a fuller measure of financial
aid to urban areas; and the focusing of the interests of suburban
communities on the physical, social and cultural environment
of the central city.
Chapter 11--Police and the Community
The abrasive relationship
between the police and the minority communities has been
a major-and explosive-source of grievance, tension and disorder.
The blame must be shared by the total society.
The police are faced
with demands for increased protection and service in the ghetto.
Yet the aggressive patrol practices thought necessary to meet
these demands themselves create tension and hostility. The
resulting grievances have been further aggravated by the lack
of effective mechanisms for handling complaints against the
police. Special programs for bettering police-community relations
have been instituted, but these alone are not enough. Police
administrators, with the guidance of public officials, and
the support of the entire community, must take vigorous action
to improve law enforcement arid to decrease the potential
The Commission recommends
that city government and police authorities:
* Review police
operations in the ghetto to ensure proper conduct by police
officers, and eliminate abrasive practices.
* Provide more adequate
police protection to ghetto residents to eliminate their high
sense of insecurity, and the belief of many Negro citizens
in the existence of a dual standard of law enforcement.'
* Establish fair
and effective mechanisms for the redress of grievances against
the police, and other municipal employees.
* Develop and adopt
policy guidelines to assist officers in making critical decisions
in areas where police conduct can create tension.
* Develop and use
innovative programs to ensure widespread community support
for law enforcement.
* Recruit more Negroes
into the regular police force, and review promotion policies
to ensure fair promotion for Negro officers.
* Establish a "Community
Service Officer" program to attract ghetto youths between
the ages of 17 and 21 to police work. These junior officers
would perform duties in ghetto neighborhoods, but would not
have full police authority. The federal government should
provide support equal to 90 percent of the costs of employing
CSOs on the basis of one for every ten regular officers.
Chapter 12--Control of Disorder
peace is the first responsibility of government. Unless the
rule of law prevails, our society will lack not only order
but also the environment essential to social and economic
of civil order cannot be left to the police alone. The police
need guidance, as well as support, from mayors and other public
officials. It is the responsibility of public officials to
determine proper police policies, support adequate police
standards for personnel and performance, and participate in
planning for the control of disorders.
To maintain control
of incidents which could lead to disorders, the Commission
recommends that local officials:
* Assign seasoned,
well-trained policemen and supervisory officers to patrol
ghetto areas, and to respond to disturbances.
* Develop plans
which will quickly muster maximum police man power and highly
qualified senior commanders at the outbreak of disorders.
* Provide special
training in the prevention of disorders, and prepare police
for riot control and for operation in units, with adequate
command and control and field communication for proper discipline
* Develop guidelines
governing the use of control equipment and provide alternatives
to the use of lethal weapons. Federal support for research
in this area is needed.
* Establish an intelligence
system to provide police and other public officials with reliable
information that may help to prevent the outbreak of a disorder
and to institute effective control measures in the event a
* Develop continuing
contacts with ghetto residents to make use of the forces for
order which exist within the community.
* Establish machinery
for neutralizing rumors, and enabling Negro leaders and residents
to obtain the facts. Create special rumor details to collect,
evaluate, and dispel rumors that may lead to a civil disorder.
The Commission believes
there is a grave danger that some communities may resort to
the indiscriminate and excessive use of force. The harmful
effects of overreaction are incalculable. The Commission
condemns moves to equip police departments with mass destruction
weapons, such as automatic rifles, machine guns and tanks.
Weapons which are designed to destroy, not to control, have
no place in densely populated urban communities.
The Commission recognizes
the sound principle of local authority and responsibility
in law enforcement, but recommends that the federal government
share, in the financing of programs for improvement of police
forces, both in their normal law enforcement activities as
well as in their response to civil disorders.
To assist government
authorities in planning their response to civil disorder,
this report contains a Supplement on Control of Disorder.
It deals with specific problems encountered during riot-control
operations, and includes:
* Assessment of
the present capabilities of police, National Guard and Army
forces to control major riots, and recommendations for improvement;
* Recommended means
by which the control operations of those forces may be coordinated
with the response of other agencies, such as fire departments,
and with the community at large;
for review and revision of federal, state and local laws needed
to provide the framework for control efforts and for the call-up
and interrelated action of public safety forces.
Chapter 13--The Administration of Justice
Under Emergency Conditions
In many of the cities
which experienced disorders last summer, there were recurring
breakdowns in the mechanisms for processing, prosecuting and
protecting arrested persons. These resulted mainly from long-standing
structural deficiencies in criminal court systems, and from
the failure of communities to anticipate and plan for the
emergency demands of civil disorders.
In part, because
of this, there were few successful prosecutions for serious
crimes committed during the riots. In those cities where mass
arrests occurred many arrestees were deprived of basic legal
The Commission recommends
that the cities and states:
* Undertake reform
of the lower courts so as to improve the quality of justice
rendered under normal conditions.
* Plan comprehensive
measures by which the criminal justice system may be supplemented
during civil disorders so that its deliberative functions
are protected, and the quality of justice is maintained.
Such emergency plans
require broad community participation and dedicated leadership
by the bench and bar. They should include:
* Laws sufficient
to deter and punish riot conduct.
* Additional judges,
bail and probation officers, and clerical staff.
* Arrangements for
volunteer lawyers to help prosecutors and to represent riot
defendants at every stage of proceedings.
* Policies to ensure
proper and individual bail, arraignment, pre-trial, trial
and sentencing proceedings.
* Procedures for
processing arrested persons, such as summons and release,
and release on personal recognizance, which permit separation
of minor offenders from those dangerous to the community,
in order that serious offenders may be detained and prosecuted
* Adequate emergency
processing and detention facilities.
Chapter 14--Damages: Repair and Compensation
The Commission recommends
that the federal government:
* Amend the Federal
Disaster Act-which now applies only to natural disasters--to
permit federal emergency food and medical assistance to cities
during major civil disorders, and provide long-term economic
* With the cooperation
of the states, create incentives for the private insurance
industry to provide more adequate property-insurance coverage
in inner-city areas.
The Commission endorses
the report of the National Advisory Panel on Insurance in
Riot-Affected Areas: "Meeting the Insurance Crisis of
Chapter 15--The News Media and the Disorders
In his charge to
the Commission, the President asked: "What effect do
the mass media have on the riots?"
The Commission determined
that the answer to the President's question did not lie solely
in the performance of the press and broadcasters in reporting
the riots. Our analysis had to consider also the overall treatment
by the media of the Negro ghettos, community relations, racial
attitudes, and poverty-day by day and month by month, year
in and year out. A wide range of interviews with government
officials, law enforcement authorities, media personnel and
other citizens, including ghetto residents, as well as a quantitative
analysis of riot coverage and a special conference with industry
representatives, leads us to conclude that:
* Despite instances
of sensationalism, inaccuracy and distortion, newspapers,
radio and television tried on the whole to give a balanced,
factual account of the 1967 disorders.
* Elements of the
news media failed to portray accurately the scale and character
of the violence that occurred last summer. The overall effect
was, we believe, an exaggeration of both mood and event. .
* Important segments
of the media failed to report adequately on the causes and
consequences of civil disorders and on the underlying problems
of race relations. They have not communicated to the majority
of their audience--which is white—a sense of the degradation,
misery and hopelessness of life in the ghetto.
These failings must
be corrected, and the improvement must come from within the
industry. Freedom of the press is not the issue. Any effort
to impose governmental restrictions would be inconsistent
with fundamental constitutional precepts.
We have seen evidence
that the news media are becoming aware of and concerned about
their performance in this field. As that concern grows, coverage
will improve. But much more must be done, and it must be done
The Commission recommends
that the media:
* Expand coverage
of the Negro community and of race problems through permanent
assignment of reporters familiar with urban and racial affairs,
and through establishment of more and better links with the
* Integrate Negroes
and Negro activities into all aspects of coverage and content,
including newspaper articles and television programming. The
news media must publish newspapers and produce programs that
recognize the existence and activities of Negroes as a group
within the community and as a part of the larger community.
* Recruit more Negroes
into journalism and broadcasting and promote those who are
qualified to positions of significant responsibility. Recruitment
should begin in high schools and continue through college;
where necessary, aid for training should be provided.
* Improve coordination
with police in reporting riot news through advance planning,
and cooperate with the police in the designation of police
information officers, establishment of information centers,
and development of mutually acceptable guidelines for riot
reporting and the conduct of media personnel.
* Accelerate efforts
to ensure accurate and responsible reporting of pot and racial
news, through adoption by all news gathering organizations
of stringent internal staff guidelines.
* Cooperate in the
establishment of a privately organized and funded Institute
of Urban Communications to train and educate journalists in
urban affairs, recruit and train more Negro journalists,
develop methods for improving police-press relations, review
coverage of riots and racial issues, and support continuing
research in the urban field. .
Chapter 16--The Future of the Cities
By 1985, the Negro
population in central cities is expected to increase by 72
percent to approximately 20.8 million. Coupled with the continued
exodus of white families to the suburbs, this growth will
produce majority Negro populations in many of the nation's
The future of these
cities, and of their burgeoning Negro populations, is grim.
Most new employment opportunities are being created in suburbs
and outlying areas. This trend will continue unless important
changes in public policy are made.
In prospect, therefore,
is further deterioration of already inadequate municipal tax
bases in the face of increasing demands for public services,
and continuing unemployment and poverty among the urban Negro
Three choices are
open to the nation:
* We can maintain
present policies, continuing both the proportion of the nation's
resources now allocated to programs for the unemployed and
the disadvantaged, and the inadequate and failing effort to
achieve an integrated society.
* We can adopt a
policy of "enrichment" aimed at improving dramatically
the quality of ghetto life while abandoning integration as
* We can pursue
integration by combining ghetto "enrichment" with
policies which will encourage Negro movement out of central
The first choice,
continuance of present policies, has ominous consequences
for our society. The share of the nation's resources now allocated
to programs for the disadvantaged is insufficient to arrest
the deterioration of life in central city ghettos. Under such
conditions, a rising proportion of Negroes may come to see
in the deprivation and segregation they experience, a justification
for violent protest, or for extending support to now isolated
extremists who advocate civil disruption. Large-scale and
continuing violence could result, followed by white retaliation,
and, ultimately, the separation of the two communities in
a garrison state.
Even if violence
does not occur, the consequences are unacceptable. Development
of a racially integrated society, extraordinarily difficult
today, will be virtually impossible when the present black
ghetto population of 12.5 million has grown to almost 21 million.
To continue present
policies is to make permanent the division of our country
into two societies; one, largely Negro and poor, located in
the central cities; the other, predominantly white and affluent,
located in the suburbs and in outlying areas.
The second choice,
ghetto enrichment coupled with abandonment of integration,
is also unacceptable. It is another way of choosing a permanently
divided country. Moreover, equality cannot be achieved under
conditions of nearly complete separation. In a country where
the economy, and particularly the resources of employment,
are predominantly white, a policy of separation can only relegate
Negroes to a permanently inferior economic status.
We believe that
the only possible choice for America is the third-a policy
which combines ghetto enrichment with programs designed to
encourage integration of substantial numbers of Negroes into
the society outside the ghetto.
be an important adjunct to integration, for no matter how
ambitious or energetic the program, few Negroes now living
in central cities can be quickly integrated. In the meantime,
large-scale improvement in the quality of ghetto life is essential.
In the meantime,
large-scale improvement in the quality of ghetto life is essential.
But this can be
no more than an interim strategy. Programs must be developed
which will permit substantial Negro movement out of the ghettos.
The primary goal must be a single society, in which every
citizen will be free to live and work according to his capabilities
and desires, not his color.
Chapter 17--Recommendations For National
or black-can escape the consequences of the continuing social
and economic decay of our major cities.
Only a commitment
to national action on an unprecedented scale can shape a future
compatible with the historic ideals of American society.
The great productivity
of our economy, and a federal revenue system which is highly
responsive to economic growth, can provide the resources.
The major need is
to generate new will--the will to tax ourselves to the extent
necessary, to meet the vital needs of the nation.
We have set forth
goals and proposed strategies to reach those goals. We discuss
and recommend programs not to commit each of us to specific
parts of such programs but to illustrate the type and dimension
of action needed.
The major goal is
the creation of a true union--a single society and a single
American identity. Toward that goal, we propose the following
objectives for national action:
* Opening up opportunities
to those who are restricted by racial segregation and discrimination,
and eliminating all barriers to their choice of jobs, education
* Removing the frustration
of powerlessness among the disadvantaged by providing the
means for them to deal with the problems that affect their
own lives and by increasing the capacity of our public and
private institutions to respond to these problems.
* Increasing communication
across racial lines to destroy stereotypes, to halt polarization,
end distrust and hostility, and create common ground for efforts
toward public order and social justice.
We propose these
aims to fulfill our pledge of equality and to meet the fundamental
needs of a democratic and civilized society--domestic peace
and social justice.
and underemployment are the most persistent and serious grievances
in minority areas. They are inextricably linked to the problem
of civil disorder.
federal expenditures for manpower development and training
programs, and sustained general economic prosperity and increasing
demands for skilled workers, about two million-white and nonwhite-are
permanently unemployed. About ten million are underemployed,
of whom 6.5 million work full time for wages below the poverty
The 500,000 "hard-core"
unemployed in the central cities who lack a basic education
and are unable to hold a steady job are made up in large part
of Negro males between the ages of 18 and 25. In the riot
cities which we surveyed, Negroes were three times as likely
as whites to hold unskilled jobs, which are often part time,
seasonal, low-paying and "dead end."
Negro males between
the ages of 15 and 25 predominated among the rioters. More
than 20 percent of the rioters were unemployed, and many who
were employed held intermittent, low status, unskilled jobs
which they regarded as below their education and ability.
The Commission recommends
that the federal government:
* Undertake joint
efforts with cities and states to consolidate existing manpower
programs to avoid fragmentation and duplication.
* Take immediate
action to create 2,000,000 new jobs over the next three years--one
million in the public sector and one million in the private
sector-to absorb the hard-core unemployed and materially
reduce the level of underemployment for all workers, black
and white. We propose 250,000 public sector and 300,000 private
sector jobs in the first year.
* Provide on-the-job
training by both public and private employers with reimbursement
to private employers for the extra costs of training the hard-core
unemployed, by contract or by tax credits.
* Provide tax and
other incentives to investment in rural as well as urban poverty
areas in order to offer to the rural poor an alternative to
migration to urban centers.
* Take new and vigorous
action to remove artificial barriers to employment and promotion,
including not only racial discrimination but, in certain
cases, arrest records or lack of a high school diploma. Strengthen
those agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
charged with eliminating discriminatory practices, and provide
full support for Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act allowing
federal grant-in-aid funds to be withheld from activities
which discriminate on grounds of color or race.
The Commission commends
the recent public commitment of the National Council of the
Building and Construction Trades Unions, AFL-CIO, to encourage
and recruit Negro membership in apprenticeship programs. This
commitment should be intensified and implemented.
Education in a democratic
society must equip children to develop their potential and
to participate fully in American life. For the community at
large, the schools have discharged this responsibility well.
But for many minorities, and particularly for the children
of the ghetto, the schools have failed to provide the educational
experience which could overcome the effects of discrimination
This failure is
one of the persistent sources of grievance and resentment
within the Negro community. The hostility of Negro parents
and students toward the school system is generating increasing
conflict and causing disruption within many city school districts.
But the most dramatic evidence of the relationship between
educational practices and civil disorders lies in the high
incidence of riot participation by ghetto youth who have not
completed high school.
The bleak record
of public education for ghetto children is growing worse.
In the critical skills--verbal and reading ability--Negro
students are falling further behind whites with each year
of school completed. The high unemployment and underemployment
rate for Negro youth is evidence, in part, of the growing
We support integration
as the priority education strategy; it is essential to the
future of American society. In this last summer's disorders
we have seen the consequences of racial isolation at all levels,
and of attitudes toward race, on both sides, produced by three
centuries of myth, ignorance and bias. It is indispensable
that opportunities for interaction between the races be expanded.
We recognize that
the growing dominance of pupils from disadvantaged minorities
in city school populations will not soon be reversed. No matter
how great the effort toward desegregation, many children
of the ghetto will not, within their school careers, attend
If existing disadvantages
are not to be perpetuated, we must drastically improve the
quality of ghetto education. Equality of results with all-white
schools must be the goal.
To implement these
strategies, the Commission recommends:
* Sharply increased
efforts to eliminate de facto segregation in our schools through
substantial federal aid to school systems seeking to desegregate
either within the system or in cooperation with neighboring
* Elimination of
racial discrimination in Northern as well as Southern schools
by vigorous application of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
* Extension of quality
early childhood education to every disadvantaged child in
* Efforts to improve
dramatically schools serving disadvantaged children through
substantial federal funding of year-round compensatory education
programs, improved teaching, and expanded experimentation
* Elimination of
illiteracy through greater federal support for adult basic
* Enlarged opportunities
for parent and community participation in the public schools.
* Reoriented vocational
education emphasizing work-experience training and the involvement
of business and industry.
* Expanded opportunities
for higher education through increased federal assistance
to disadvantaged students.
* Revision of state
aid formulas to assure more per student aid to districts having
a high proportion of disadvantaged school-age children.
THE WELFARE SYSTEM
Our present system
of public welfare is designed to save money instead of people,
and tragically ends up doing neither. This system has two
First, it excludes
large numbers of persons who are in great need, and who, if
provided a decent level of support, might be able to become
more productive and self-sufficient. No federal funds are
available for millions of men and women who are needy but
neither aged, handicapped nor the parents of minor children.
Second, for those
included, the system provides assistance well below the minimum
necessary for a decent level of existence, and imposes restrictions
that encourage continued dependency on welfare and undermine
A welter of statutory
requirements and administrative practices and regulations
operate to remind recipients that they are considered untrustworthy,
promiscuous and lazy. Residence requirements prevent assistance
to people in need who are newly arrived in the state. Regular
searches of recipients' homes violate privacy. Inadequate
social services compound the problems.
The Commission recommends
that the federal government, acting with state and local governments
where necessary, reform the existing welfare system to:
* Establish uniform
national standards of assistance at least as high as the annual
"poverty level" of income, now set by the Social
Security Administration at $3,335 per year for an urban family
* Require that all
states receiving federal welfare contributions participate
in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Unemployed
Parents program (AFDC-UP) that permits assistance to families
with both father and mother in the home, thus aiding the family
while it is still intact.
* Bear a substantially
greater portion of all welfare costs-at least 90 percent of
* Increase incentives
for seeking employment and job training, but remove restrictions
recently enacted by the Congress that would compel mothers
of young children to work.
* Provide more adequate
social services through neighborhood centers and family-planning
* Remove the freeze
placed by the 1967 welfare amendments on the percentage of
children in a state that can be covered by federal assistance.
As a long-range
goal, the Commission recommends that the federal government
seek to develop a national system of income supplementation
based strictly on need with two broad and basic purposes:
* To provide, for
those who can work or who do work, any necessary supplements
in such a way as to develop incentives for fuller employment;
* To provide, for
those who cannot work and for mothers who decide to remain
with their children, a minimum standard of decent living,
and to aid in the saving of children from the prison of poverty
that has held their parents.
A broad system of
implementation would involve substantially greater federal
expenditures than anything now contemplated. The cost will
range widely depending on the standard of need accepted as
the "basic allowance" to individuals and families,
and on the rate at which additional income above this level
is taxed. Yet if the deepening cycle of poverty and dependence
on welfare can be broken, if the children of the poor can
be given the opportunity to scale the wall that now separates
them from the rest of society, the return on this investment
will be great indeed.
After more than
three decades of fragmented and grossly underfunded federal
housing programs, nearly six million substandard housing units
remain occupied in the United States.
The housing problem
is particularly acute in the minority ghettos. Nearly two-thirds
of all non-white families living in the central cities today
live in neighborhoods marked with substandard housing and
general urban blight. Two major factors are responsible.
First: Many ghetto
residents simply cannot pay the rent necessary to support
decent housing. In Detroit, for example, over 40 percent of
the non-white occupied units in 1960 required rent of over
35 percent of the tenants' income.
prevents access to many non-slum areas, particularly the suburbs,
where good housing exists. In addition, by creating a "back
pressure" in the racial ghettos, it makes it possible
for landlords to break up apartments for denser occupancy,
and keeps prices and rents of deteriorated ghetto housing
higher than they would be in a truly free market.
To date, federal
programs have been able to do comparatively little to provide
housing for the disadvantaged. In the 31-year history of subsidized
federal housing, only about 800,000 units have been constructed,
with recent production averaging about 50,000 units a year.
By comparison, over a period only three years longer, FHA
insurance guarantees have made possible the construction of
over ten million middle and upper-income units.
Two points are fundamental
to the Commission's recommendations:
First: Federal housing
programs must be given a new thrust aimed at overcoming the
prevailing patterns of racial segregation. If this is not
done, those programs will continue to concentrate the most
impoverished and dependent segments of the population into
the central-city ghettos where there is already a critical
gap between the needs of the population and the public resources
to deal with them.
Second: The private
sector must be brought into the production and financing of
low and moderate rental housing to supply the capabilities
and capital necessary to meet the housing needs of the nation.
The Commission recommends
that the federal government:
* Enact a comprehensive
and enforceable federal open housing law to cover the sale
or rental of all housing, including single family homes.
* Reorient federal
housing programs to place more low and moderate income housing
outside of ghetto areas.
* Bring within the
reach of low and moderate income families within the next
five years six million new and existing units of decent housing,
beginning with 600,000 units in the next year.
To reach this goal we recommend:
* Expansion and
modification of the rent supplement program to permit use
of supplements for existing housing, thus greatly increasing
the reach of the program.
* Expansion and
modification of the below-market interest rate program to
enlarge the interest subsidy to all sponsors and provide interest-free
loans to nonprofit sponsors to cover pre-construction costs,
and permit sale of projects to nonprofit corporations, cooperatives,
* Creation of an
ownership supplement program similar to present rent supplements,
to make home ownership possible for low-income families.
* Federal writedown
of interest rates on loans to private builders constructing
* Expansion of the
public housing program, with emphasis on small units on scattered
sites, and leasing and "turnkey" programs.
* Expansion of the
Model Cities program.
* Expansion and
reorientation of the urban renewal program to give priority
to projects directly assisting low-income households to obtain
One of the first
witnesses to be invited to appear before this Commission was
Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, a distinguished and perceptive scholar.
Referring to the reports of earlier riot commissions, he said:
read that report. . . of the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it
is as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee
on the Harlem riot of '35, the report of the investigating
committee on the Harlem riot of '43, the report of the McCone
Commission on the Watts riot.
must again in candor say to you members of this Commission--it
is a kind of Alice in Wonderland--with the same moving picture
re-shown over and over again, the same analysis, the same
recommendations, and the same inaction.
These words come
to our minds as we conclude this report.
We have provided
an honest beginning. We have learned much. But we have uncovered
no startling truths, no unique insights, no simple solutions.
The destruction and the bitterness of racial disorder, the
harsh polemics of black revolt and white repression have been
seen and heard before in this country.
It is time now to
end the destruction and the violence, not only in the streets
of the ghetto but in the lives of people.
REPORT OF THE NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMISSION
ON CIVIL DISORDERS (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), pp. 1-29.