In this WSB newsfilm clip from March 1, 1968, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. comments on the published findings of the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.
The clip begins with Allen speaking at a press conference, where he projects the city's future use of state or federal aid awarded for the implementation of recommendations established by the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. He emphasizes that the city will "do everything that we possibly can to assure that there will be complete law and order in this city during this coming summer as well as subsequent years." A reporter comments "There are a lot of poor white people in America, and the report, of course dealt with Negro rioting." He then asks "Do you think there is a danger of the poor whites being forgotten in our concern for the Negro?" Allen responds that he thinks that although the report focuses on rioting in African American neighborhoods, it also recognizes the problem of poverty in America as a whole. He then defines what he considers to be the differences between white and African American poverty. "Of course the difference between white poverty and Negro poverty is white poverty has always had the opportunity to move out of the area of poverty, whereas by segregation and discrimination the Negro in the past has been confined legally, by laws almost, into the area of poverty. There was the difference between having hope and opportunity, and having hope and opportunity denied by law." Allen then acknowledges that poverty must be addressed as it affects both whites and African Americans.
On February 29, 1968, the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission (after the commission's chairman, Illinois governor Otto Kerner), released a report based upon its seven-month investigation of racial disturbances that took place in one hundred sixty-four American cities between 1964 and 1967. The commission, convened by President Lyndon Johnson, was asked to determine the cause of previous riots and propose solutions. Many whites believed that the rioting was caused by an organized African American political conspiracy. The commission contradicted this notion, and instead implicated white racism in the foundation and perpetuation of an intolerable environment for African Americans living in the city, therefore precipitating riot conditions. Federal and local housing, education and social service initiatives and officials were rebuked for failing to effectively address the needs of the African American urban poor. The commission also criticized law enforcement for handling disturbances in African American neighborhoods inappropriately, and denounced the news media for its racial bias and insufficient analysis of the origins of civil disturbances and race relations. In the most famous line of the report, the commission warned "our nation is moving toward two societies: one black, one white--separate and unequal." The Kerner commission recommended a substantial commitment of resources to prevent further social polarization. Members proposed a restructuring of federal welfare, increased federal subsidization of jobs and job training, and funding for new housing programs designed to eliminate residential segregation. Mayor Allen, along with mayors from other major American cities that sustained rioting in previous years, upheld the report's conclusions. President Johnson, however, dismissed the commission's recommendations; he considered them to be both too radical and financially unrealistic.
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The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Mayor Ivan Allen commenting that African Americans are locked into poverty by discrimination, Atlanta, Georgia, 1968 March 1, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1445, 13:38/15:03, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.