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The History of the “Riot” Report

How government commissions became alibis for inaction.

Detroit, July 25, 1967. Thousands of U.S. troops were deployed to the city.,AFP / Getty

On February 14, 1965, back from a trip to Los Angeles, and a week before he was killed in New York, Malcolm X gave a speech in Detroit. “Brothers and sisters, let me tell you, I spend my time out there in the street with people, all kind of people, listening to what they have to say,” he said. “And they’re dissatisfied, they’re disillusioned, they’re fed up, they’re getting to the point of frustration where they are beginning to feel: What do they have to lose?”

That summer, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. In a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda attended by Martin Luther King, Jr., Johnson invoked the arrival of enslaved Africans in Jamestown, in 1619: “They came in darkness and they came in chains. And today we strike away the last major shackles of those fierce and ancient bonds.” Five days later, Watts was swept by violence and flames, following a protest against police brutality. The authorities eventually arrested nearly four thousand people; thirty-four people died. “How is it possible, after all we’ve accomplished?” Johnson asked. “How could it be? Is the world topsy-turvy?”

Two years later, after thousands of police officers and National Guard troops blocked off fourteen square miles of Newark and nearly five thousand troops from the 82nd and the 101st Airborne were deployed to Detroit, where seven thousand people were arrested, Johnson convened a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by Illinois’s governor, Otto Kerner, Jr., and charged it with answering three questions: “What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again and again?” Johnson wanted to know why black people were still protesting, after Congress had finally passed landmark legislation, not only the Voting Rights Act but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a raft of anti-poverty programs. Or maybe he really didn’t want to know why. When the Kerner Commission submitted its report, the President refused to acknowledge it.

There’s a limit to the relevance of the so-called race riots of the nineteen-sixties to the protests of the moment. But the tragedy is: they’re not irrelevant. Nor is the history that came before. The language changes, from “insurrection” to “uprising” to the bureaucratic “civil disorder,” terms used to describe everything from organized resistance to mayhem. But, nearly always, they leave a bloody trail in the historical record, in the form of government reports. The Kerner Report followed centuries of official and generally hysterical government inquiries into black rebellion, from the unhinged “A Journal of the proceedings in the Detection of the Conspiracy formed by some White People, in conjunction with Negro and other Slaves, for burning the City of New-York in America, and murdering the Inhabitants,” in 1744, to the largely fabricated “Official Report of the Trials of Sundry Negroes, charged with an attempt to raise an insurrection in the state of South-Carolina,” in 1822. The white editor of the as-told-to (and highly dubious) “The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Va. . . . also, An Authentic Account of the Whole Insurrection, with Lists of the Whites Who Were Murdered . . . ,” in 1831, wrote, “Public curiosity has been on the stretch to understand the origin and progress of this dreadful conspiracy, and the motives which influences its diabolical actors.” What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again and again?

After Reconstruction, Ida B. Wells, in “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases,” which appeared in 1892, turned the genre on its head, offering a report on white mobs attacking black men, a litany of lynchings. “Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so,” Wells wrote in the book’s preface, after a mob burned the offices of her newspaper, the Free Speech. White mob violence against black people and their homes and businesses was the far more common variety of race riot, from the first rising of the K.K.K., after the Civil War, through the second, in 1915. And so the earliest twentieth-century commissions charged with investigating “race riots” reported on the riots of white mobs, beginning with the massacre in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917, in which, following labor unrest, as many as three thousand white men roamed the city, attacking, killing, and lynching black people, and burning their homes. Wells wrote that as many as a hundred and fifty men were killed, while police officers and National Guardsmen either looked on or joined in. Similar riots took place in 1919, in twenty-six cities, and the governor of Illinois appointed an interracial commission to investigate. “This is a tribunal constituted to get the facts and interpret them and to find a way out,” he said.

The Chicago Commission on Race Relations, composed of six whites and six blacks, who engaged the work of as many as twenty-two whites and fifteen blacks, heard nearly two hundred witnesses, and, in 1922, published a seven-hundred-page report, with photographs, maps, and color plates: “The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot.” It paid particular attention to racial antipathy: “Many white Americans, while technically recognizing Negroes as citizens, cannot bring themselves to feel that they should participate in government as freely as other citizens.” Much of the report traces how the Great Migration brought large numbers of blacks from the Jim Crow South to Chicago, where they faced discrimination in housing and employment, and persecution at the hands of local police and the criminal-justice system:

The testimony of court officials before the Commission and its investigations indicate that Negroes are more commonly arrested, subjected to police identification, and convicted than white offenders, that on similar evidence they are generally held and convicted on more serious charges, and that they are given longer sentences. . . . These practices and tendencies are not only unfair to Negroes, but weaken the machinery of justice and, when taken with the greater inability of Negroes to pay fines in addition to or in lieu of terms in jail, produce misleading statistics of Negro crime.

Very little came of the report. In 1935, following riots in Harlem, yet another hardworking commission weighed in:

This sudden breach of the public order was the result of a highly emotional situation among the colored people of Harlem, due in large part to the nervous strain of years of unemployment and insecurity. To this must be added their deep sense of wrong through discrimination against their employment in stores which live chiefly upon their purchases, discrimination against them in the school system and by the police, and all the evils due to dreadful overcrowding, unfair rentals and inadequate institutional care. It is probable that their justifiable pent-up feeling, that they were and are the victims of gross injustice and prejudice, would sooner or later have brought about an explosion.

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Who was to blame?

The blame belongs to a society that tolerates inadequate and often wretched housing, inadequate and inefficient schools and other public facilities, unemployment, unduly high rents, the lack of recreation grounds, discrimination in industry and public utilities against colored people, brutality and lack of courtesy of the police.

In Detroit in 1943, after a riot left twenty-five blacks and nine whites dead and led to the arrest of nearly two thousand people, Michigan’s governor appointed the commissioner of police and the attorney general to a panel that concluded, without conducting much of an investigation, that responsibility for the riots lay with black leaders, and defended the police, whom many had blamed for the violence. A separate, independent commission, led by Thurgood Marshall, then chief counsel for the N.A.A.C.P., conducted interviews, hired private detectives, and produced a report titled “The Gestapo in Detroit.” The group called for a grand jury, arguing that “much of the blood spilled in the Detroit riot is on the hands of the Detroit police department.” No further investigation took place, and no material reforms were implemented.

That’s what usually happens. In a 1977 study, “Commission Politics: The Processing of Racial Crisis in America,” Michael Lipsky and David J. Olson reported that, between 1917 and 1943, at least twenty-one commissions were appointed to investigate race riots, and, however sincerely their members might have been interested in structural change, none of the commissions led to any. The point of a race-riot commission, Lipsky and Olson argue, is for the government that appoints it to appear to be doing something, while actually doing nothing.

The convulsions that led to the Kerner Commission began in Los Angeles, in 1965. Between 1960 and 1964, the nation enjoyed unrivalled prosperity, but in Watts, among the poorest neighborhoods of L.A., one in three men had no work. In Los Angeles, as Mike Davis and Jon Wiener write in a new book, “Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties,” “the LAPD operated the nation’s most successful negative employment scheme.” Police stopped black men for little or no reason, and, if they talked back, they got arrested; left with an arrest record, they became unemployable.

On August 11, 1965, a Wednesday, a motorcycle cop pulled over a car with a driver and a passenger, two brothers, Ronald and Marquette Frye, about a block from their house, near 116th Street. Their mother, Rena, all of five feet tall, came over. Marquette resisted handcuffs—he would strike those fierce and ancient shackles. The motorcycle cop called for backup; twenty-six police vehicles raced to the scene, sirens screaming. “Does it take all these people to arrest three people?” an onlooker asked. When Rena Frye tried to stop the police from beating her sons with billy clubs, they pinned her to the hood of a patrol car and, after a crowd had gathered, arrested another of her sons and dragged away a woman in a stranglehold. “Goddam! They’d never treat a white woman like that!” someone called out. The crowd protested, and grew, and protested, and grew. What came to be known as the Watts riot lasted for six days and spread across nearly fifty square miles. On Friday night, a man said:

I was standing in a phone booth watching. A little kid came by carrying a lamp he had taken out of a store. Maybe he was about twelve. He was with his mother. I remember him saying: “Don’t run Mommy. They said we could take the stuff because they’re going to burn the store anyway.” Then, suddenly, about five police cars stopped. There were about 20 cops in them and they all got out. One came up to the booth I was standing in. The cop hit me on the leg with his club. “Get out of here, nigger,” he yelled at me. I got out of the booth. Another cop ran up to the boy and hit him in the head with the butt of a shotgun. The kid dropped like a stone. The lamp crashed on the sidewalk. I ran out of the phone booth and grabbed the cop by the arm. I was trying to stop him from beating the boy. Two cops jumped on my back. Others struck the boy with their clubs. They beat that little kid’s face to a bloody pulp. His mother and some others took him away. That’s when I thought, white people are animals.

Johnson could barely speak about what was happening in Watts. An aide said, “He refused to look at the cable from Los Angeles describing the situation. He refused to take the calls from the generals who were requesting government planes to fly in the National Guard. . . . We needed decisions from him. But he simply wouldn’t respond.”

The same Friday, the National Guard arrived. “More Americans died fighting in Watts Saturday night than in Vietnam that day,” an observer wrote. On Sunday, fifteen police officers fired eleven shotgun rounds into Aubrey Griffith, inside his own house, where he and his wife had been in bed while their son, on leave from the Air Force, was watching TV. The officers banged on the door, and Griffith told his wife to call the police. An inquest ruled his death—and every other death at the hands of the National Guard or the police during the days of protest—a justifiable homicide.

Martin Luther King, Jr., arrived on Tuesday. “All we want is jobs,” a man said to him, at a community meeting in Watts. “We get jobs, we don’t bother nobody. We don’t get no jobs, we’ll tear up Los Angeles, period.” Later, King recalled that one man told him, “We won!” King had replied, “What do you mean, ‘We won’? Thirty-some people dead, all but two are Negroes. You’ve destroyed your own. What do you mean, ‘We won’?” The man said, “We made them pay attention to us.”

Paying attention, at that point, only ever really took this form: the governor appointed a commission, this time headed by John A. McCone, a lavishly wealthy and well-connected California industrialist who, in 1961, had been made director of the C.I.A. by President Kennedy but had resigned in April, 1965, in part because he objected to Johnson’s reluctance to engage in a wider war in Vietnam. The McCone Commission report, titled “Violence in the City,” celebrated the City of Angels: “A Negro in Los Angeles has long been able to sit where he wants in a bus or a movie house, to shop where he wishes, to vote, and to use public facilities without discrimination. The opportunity to succeed is probably unequaled in any other major American city.” It called for the creation of fifty thousand new jobs, but, first, “attitudinal training.” It blamed the riots on outside agitators and civil-rights activists: “Although the Commission received much thoughtful and constructive testimony from Negro witnesses, we also heard statements of the most extreme and emotional nature. For the most part our study fails to support—and indeed the evidence disproves—most of the statements made by the extremists.” Fundamental to the McCone thesis was the claim that peaceful demonstrations produce violent riots, and should therefore be discouraged. In a devastating rebuttal, Bayard Rustin laid this argument to waste:

It would be hard to frame a more insidiously equivocal statement of the Negro grievance concerning law enforcement during a period that included the release of the suspects in the murder of the three civil-rights workers in Mississippi, the failure to obtain convictions against the suspected murderers of Medgar Evers and Mrs. Violet Liuzzo . . . and the police violence in Selma, Alabama. . . . And surely it would have been more to the point to mention that throughout the nation Negro demonstrations have almost invariably been non-violent, and that the major influence on the Negro community of the civil-rights movement has been the strategy of discipline and dignity.

By the summer of 1967, when protests against police brutality had led to riots in Newark and Detroit, Johnson was facing a conservative backlash against his Great Society programs, and especially against the Fair Housing Act, which was introduced in Congress in 1966. He’d also been trying to gain passage of a Rat Extermination Act, to get rid of urban infestations; Republicans called it the Civil Rats Bill. Johnson had long since lost the right; now he was losing the left. By April, King had come out against the war in Vietnam. Beleaguered and defensive, Johnson launched an “Optimism Campaign,” in an effort to convince the public that the U.S. was winning the war in Vietnam. George Romney, the Republican governor of Michigan, who was expected to run against Johnson in 1968, asked for federal troops to be sent to Detroit, which would be the first time since F.D.R. sent them in 1943. Johnson wavered. “I’m concerned about the charge that we cannot kill enough people in Vietnam so we go out and shoot civilians in Detroit,” he said. In the end, he decided to authorize the troops, and to blame Romney, announcing, on television, that there was “undisputed evidence that Governor Romney of Michigan and the local officials in Detroit have been unable to bring the situation under control.” Twenty-seven hundred Army paratroopers were deployed to Detroit, with Huey helicopters that most Americans had seen only in TV coverage of the war in Vietnam.

On July 27, 1967, Johnson gave a televised speech on “civil disorders,” announcing his decision to form a national commission to investigate race riots. Protests had taken place, and turned violent, in more than a hundred and fifty cities that summer, and they were being televised. Were they part of a conspiracy? Johnson suspected so, even though his advisers told him that he was wrong. “I don’t want to foreclose the conspiracy theory now,” he said. “Keep that door open.”

Johnson loved Presidential commissions: people called him, not affectionately, “the great commissioner.” In the first decade after the Second World War, U.S. Presidents appointed an average of one and a half commissions a year. Johnson appointed twenty. In “Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism” (2018), Steven M. Gillon observes that “commissions became a convenient way for presidents to fill the gap between what they could deliver and what was expected of them.” To his new commission, Johnson appointed a Noah’s Ark of commissioners, two by two: two congressmen, one Republican, one Democrat; one business leader, one labor leader. Roy Wilkins, the executive director of the N.A.A.C.P., was, with Edward Brooke, a Republican senator from Massachusetts, one of two African-Americans. The commission included no political radicals, no protesters, and no young people. The President expected the commission to defend his legislative accomplishments and agenda, and to endorse his decision to send the National Guard to Detroit. When he called Fred Harris, the thirty-six-year-old Oklahoma senator, to discuss the appointment, he told Harris to remember that he was a “Johnson man.” Otherwise, Johnson said, “I’ll take out my pocket knife and cut your peter off.” Nearly as soon as he convened the commission, Johnson regretted it, and pulled its funding.

Otto Kerner, born in Chicago in 1908, went to Brown and then Northwestern, for law school, and, in the nineteen-thirties and into the Second World War, served in the Illinois National Guard, for twenty years, retiring in 1954 with the rank of major general. Under his leadership, as Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman report in their biography, the Illinois guard had the nation’s highest percentage of African-Americans. A former district attorney, later elected to a county judgeship, Kerner had a reputation for strict personal integrity, earning him the nickname Mr. Clean. He was elected governor of Illinois in 1960, and it is possible that his coattails delivered the state to John F. Kennedy, in one of the closest Presidential races in American history. He had a strong record on civil rights, and was an adamant supporter of fair housing, declaring, in 1968, “Civil disorders will still be the order of the day unless we create a society of equal justice.”

After Kerner got the call from Johnson, he announced, “Tomorrow, I go to Washington to help organize this group of citizens for the saddest mission that any of us in our careers have been asked to pursue—why one American assaults another, why violence is inflicted on people of our cities, why the march to an ideal America has been interrupted by bloodshed and destruction. We are being asked, in a broad sense, to probe into the soul of America.”

Kerner wanted open hearings. “My concern all the time about this commission has been that at the conclusion our greatest problem is going to be to educate the whites, rather than the Negro,” he said. Kerner did not prevail on this point. J. Edgar Hoover testified on the first day, to say that the F.B.I. had found no evidence of a conspiracy behind the riots, and that he thought one good remedy for violence would be better gun laws. “You have to license your dog,” he said. Why not your gun? Martin Luther King, Jr., told the commission, “People who are completely devoid of hope don’t riot.”

Maybe the most painful testimony came from Kenneth B. Clark, the African-American psychologist, at the City College of New York, whose research on inequality had been pivotal to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. He told the commission:

I 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. I 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.

The historical trail is blood spilled in a deeply rutted road.

John V. Lindsay, the handsome liberal mayor of New York who served as the vice-chair of the commission, got most of the media attention. But Kerner did his work. When the commission travelled, Kerner went out on the street to talk to people. He went for a walk in Newark, and stopped to speak to a group around the corner from Prince Street. They told him they had three concerns: police brutality, unemployment, and the lack of a relocation program for displaced workers. One man told the Governor that he hadn’t had a job in eight years.

After months of hearings and meetings, the commission began assembling its report. Kerner wanted it to be moving, and beautifully written. John Hersey was asked to write it, perhaps in the style of “Hiroshima”; Hersey said no. (Instead, much of the report was drafted by the commission’s executive director, David Ginsburg, who later helped write Hubert Humphrey’s campaign platform.) Toward the end of the commission’s deliberations, Roy Wilkins offered emotional personal testimony that greatly informed a draft by Lindsay, describing “two societies, one black, one white.” Another draft contained a passage that was later stricken: “Past efforts have not carried the commitment, will or resources needed to eliminate the attitudes and practices that have maintained racism as a major force in our society. Only the dedication of every citizen can generate a single American identity and a single American community.” Every word of the report was read aloud, and every word was unanimously agreed on. The final draft did include this passage: “Race prejudice has shaped our history decisively; it now threatens to affect our future. White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.” In the final report, as the historian Julian Zelizer writes in an introduction to a 2016 edition, “no institution received more scrutiny than the police.” That’s been true of every one of these reports since 1917.

Johnson, when he got the report, was so mad that he refused to sign the letters thanking the commissioners for their service. “I’d be a hypocrite,” he said. “Just file them . . . or get rid of them.”

The Kerner Report was published on March 1, 1968, but first it was leaked (probably by Ginsburg) to the Washington Post, which ran a story with the headline “chief blame for riots put on white racism.” It became an overnight best-seller. It sold more copies than the Warren Commission report, three-quarters of a million copies in the first two weeks alone. Released in a paperback edition by Bantam, it was said to be the fastest-selling book since “Valley of the Dolls.”

Civil-rights activists, expecting a whitewash, were stunned. “It’s the first time whites have said, ‘We’re racists,’ ” the head of core declared. Republicans rejected it. “One of the major weaknesses of the President’s commission is that it, in effect, blames everybody for the riots except the perpetrators of the riots,” Nixon said from the campaign trail. “I think this talk . . . tends to divide people, to build a wall in between people.” Conservatives deemed it absurd. “What caused the riots,” William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote, “isn’t segregation or poverty or frustration. What caused them is a psychological disorder which is tearing at the ethos of our society as a result of boredom, self-hatred, and the arrogant contention that all our shortcomings are the result of other people’s aggressions upon us.”

Johnson came up with his own explanation for what had happened in America during his Presidency: “I’ve moved the Negro from D+ to C-. He’s still nowhere. He knows it. And that’s why he’s out in the streets. Hell, I’d be there, too.” In 1969, Harry McPherson, Johnson’s chief speechwriter, tried to explain what had so bothered Johnson about the Kerner Report. “It hurt his pride,” McPherson said, because it made it clear that Johnson had not, somehow, saved the Negro. But there was a bigger, sounder reason, he believed: “The only thing that held any hope for the Negro was the continuation of the coalition between labor, Negroes, intellectuals, . . . big city bosses and political machines and some of the urban poor. . . . In other words, it required keeping the Polacks who work on the line at River Rouge in the ball park and supporting Walter Reuther and the government as they try to spend money on blacks.” Middle-class whites didn’t give a damn, he thought, but blacks needed poor and working-class whites on their side. “Then a Presidential commission is formed and goes out and comes back, and what does it say? Who’s responsible for the riots? ‘The other members of the coalition. They did it. Those racists.’ And thereupon, the coalition says . . . ‘we’ll go out and find ourselves a guy like George Wallace, or Richard Nixon.’ ”

That spring, Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, and then Robert F. Kennedy. In July, five months after the release of the report, Kerner wrote his own reflections, looking back at the response to the maelstrom that had followed King’s assassination, and arguing against the militarization of the police: “Armored vehicles, automatic weapons and armor-piercing machine guns are for use against an enemy, and not a lawbreaker. . . . If you come out with a show of force, you in a sense challenge the other side to meet you. Force begets force.”

Still, Johnson fulfilled Kerner’s wish to be appointed to the federal bench. During Kerner’s confirmation hearings, he was questioned by Strom Thurmond about the conclusions of the report that bore his name:

Thurmond: Why do you say “white racism” caused these riots?

Kerner: I beg your pardon.

Thurmond: Why do you want to blame the white people . . . for this trouble?

Kerner: Because we say this has developed over a period of time, and the people in the Negro ghettos indicated that the rebellion was against the white establishment. . . .

Thurmond: . . . What does that term mean? What did you think it meant when you put it in this report or approved of it?

Kerner: I thought it meant this—that over a period of years the Negro was kept within a certain area economically and geographically and he was not allowed to come out of it.

In 1971, Kerner became involved in a scandal connected with his ownership of stock in a racetrack; he was eventually charged and convicted of mail fraud. Sentenced to three years in prison, Kerner went to the Federal Correctional Institution, a minimum-security prison in Fayette County, Kentucky, on July 29, 1974, two weeks before Nixon resigned. He insisted that his conviction was one of Nixon’s “dirty tricks.” “I have reason to believe I was one of the victims of this overall plan,” he wrote. He suspected Nixon of punishing him for his role in Kennedy’s victory in 1960. In his cell, Kerner kept a journal. “So frequently I sit here alone,” he wrote, thinking thoughts that inmates have thought since the beginning of prisons:

I wonder of what use is our prison system—as I have often wondered when I was seeking an alternative to this inhuman manner of restraining those who have violated the law. The waste of man power—both by the restrainers and the one restrained. Removing the individual from the outside world really accomplishes nothing of a positive nature. The restraint builds up frustrations and a smothering of the will. It kills motivation and completely removes decision ability.

With an ailing heart and what was soon discovered to be lung cancer, Kerner was paroled after serving seven months. He spent what time he had left urging prison reform. He died in 1976. Not long before his death, asked about the Kerner Report, he said, “The basis for the report, I think, is as valid today as the day we sent it to the government printing office.”

On June 1st, in Washington, D.C., police in riot gear cleared Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters, by force. (“Take off the riot gear, I don’t see no riot here,” protesters chanted.) The purpose was to allow President Trump to stride to St. John’s Church, accompanied by the Attorney General and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and be photographed holding a Bible. The next day, Ohio’s Republican senator, Rob Portman, called for a national commission on race relations. “It would not be a commission to restate the problem but to focus on solutions and send a strong moral message that America must live up to the ideal that God created all of us as equal,” Portman said. He suggested that it might be co-chaired by the former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

The United States does not need one more commission, or one more report. A strong moral message? That message is being delivered by protesters every day, on street after street after street across the nation. Stop killing us. One day, these reports will lie archived, forgotten, irrelevant. Meanwhile, they pile up, an indictment, the stacked evidence of inertia. In the summer of 1968, the civil-rights leader Whitney Young published an essay titled “The Report That Died,” writing, “The report is still there, it still reads well, but practically nothing is being done to follow its recommendations.” It was as it had ever been. It is time for it to be something else.

Jill Lepore, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005. Her books include “The Name of War,” which won the Bancroft Prize; “New York Burning,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history; “Book of Ages,” a finalist for the National Book Award; and “The Secret History of Wonder Woman;” and the international bestseller, “These Truths: A History of the United States.” Later this year, she will publish her fourteenth book, “If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future.” Lepore received her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale in 1995 and is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University.

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