The impact of the campaigns on the USA

Tommie Smith, and John Carlos show raised fists on the podium in the 1968 Olympics
Tommie Smith and John Carlos show raised fists on the podium in the 1968 Olympics

The split in the civil rights movement and the emergence of Black Power divided American society.

Many white people who had been sympathetic, and even supported, the early non-violent civil rights campaigns lost patience with the violent approach of Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers.

The race riots of the mid 1960s and the Black Power salute given by two American athletes at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 demonstrated a deeply divided country.

The Kerner Commission

The Kerner Commission was set up in 1967 to investigate the race riots of that year and found that:

  • The USA was a divided society: black people were generally poor while white people were more prosperous.
  • Unemployment among black men was double the rate for white men.
  • 40 per cent of all African Americans lived in poverty. Poverty was highlighted as one of the main causes of the riots.
  • The riots were ultimately caused by white society as it did nothing to solve the problem of poverty experienced by African Americans.