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Civil Rights in 1967

Racial tensions erupted into full-scale riots across the country and school segregation was still rampant in the South in 1967, but there was some hope for improvement.

Racially motivated violence hit some 50 cities in 1967, from Newark, New Jersey, and New Haven, Connecticut, to Fresno, California. The worst riots occurred in Detroit, Michigan, in late July, with more than 40 deaths and about $50 million in property damage over a five-day period. President Lyndon Johnson responded to the violence by appointing a commission, headed by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, to study measures to prevent future riots. The commission met in August, but took no immediate action.

The Kerner Commission meets at the White House. Governor Kerner is seated at the President's right.
Kerner Commission

In October, President Johnson recommended a $40,000,000 program to persuade private industry to build new businesses and to create jobs in urban ghettos. His most ambitious legislative project in 1967 was an open housing bill, but that bill was stalled in Congress.

With little actual help coming from the nation's capital, an Urban Coalition of 22 business, civil rights, labor, municipal, and religious leaders announced in August that it planned to call for an immediate public-private effort to find and/or create 1,000,000 jobs and to build at least 1,000,000 housing units a year for low-income families. In September, 350 life insurance companies developed a program to invest a billion dollars in slum redevelopment. Louisville, Kentucky, was the scene of a drive to break down patterns of residential segregation, as was Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Comedian Dick Gregory and Father James E. Groppi participate in a march through downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in an effort to force open housing.
Dick Gregory joins a civil rights march in Milwaukee

A study by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found that more blacks attended segregated schools in the South in 1967 than when the Supreme Court ruled against segregation in 1954. The same study also showed, however, that the rate of admission of blacks to southern colleges had increased. Another bright spot in the fight to integrate schools was the election of William Henry Fowler, a black, as assistant superintendent of personnel for the Little Rock (Arkansas) School Board, the same board which had, less than a decade earlier, tried to privatize its schools rather than integrate them.

Blacks also made significant headway politically, thanks in large part to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and very persistent voter registration drives by civil rights groups. In Mississippi, blacks captured nominations for a variety of political positions, most of them local. Cleveland, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, both elected black Mayors, and Louise Day Hicks, an opponent of school integration, lost her bid for Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts. In Washington, D.C., President Johnson appointed Walter E. Washington, a black, as the first Commissioner (Mayor) of the nation's capital.

Detroit Riot
President Lyndon Johnson

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The Robinson Library >> In The Year... >> 1967

This page was last updated on February 16, 2018.