Watch CBS News

"Confidential" race report by Denver illustrates lasting wounds of discrimination

Confidential report from Denver focuses on race and equity
Confidential report from Denver focuses on race and equity 02:33

Juneteenth is also known as "Freedom Day." And as Colorado celebrated the holiday this year, a new law requires the state to study the impact of slavery on African Americans to this day.

A report on race labeled "Confidential" by the City of Denver illustrates how long inequities have persisted on everything from homeownership to education and health outcomes.

"We are at the bottom in many areas," said state Sen. James Coleman (D-Denver) at the recent bill signing ceremony for Senate Bill 24-053.

We've had Black mayors, Black police chiefs, and Black legislators.

But 18% of Black Coloradans live in poverty compared to 8% of their white neighbors.

SB24-053, calling for a racial equity study in Colorado was signed into law on June 5, 2024. CBS

This month, Gov. Jared Polis signed off on a bill to study racial equity. But many ask – why now?

"This isn't just about the Black community. But it is something we believe is going to lift all boats," said Coleman.

"Race prejudice as we will show is non-productive, causes great suffering, and costs money.'

This isn't from 2024's Black caucus.

Confidential Report on the Minorities of Denver 1947

City leaders wrote this – 77 years ago. 

"The most costly price is the price of repeating history," said Dr. Ben Sanders, Chief Equity Officer for Denver.

"That can't happen if we're not first honest about some of the hardest parts of our history."

CBS Colorado obtained the "Confidential Report on the Minorities of Denver" from 1947.

The 500-page document includes research about attitudes toward different ethnic groups, and how they were actively being held back.

Sanders said, "It has always been the case that progress in the areas of racial and social equity have been challenged by folks who think society will be better if it stayed as it was."

Forty-six percent of people surveyed in the 1947 report said Negroes "should be treated differently than the average white person" and 72% in that same report said Negroes "should not be allowed to live anywhere they like."

Most of the generational hate is gone. But the report acknowledges inequities we still see today – from healthcare, education, and housing.

Confidential Report on the Minorities of Denver 1947

"You tell me your zip code, I can predict a lot of the structural challenges you'll face," said Sanders.

The report offered suggestions – saying, "It will be the responsibility of the mayor… to reexamine what we've done and put into effect the recommendations"

Nearly 80 years later, Sanders' office and now the state are still working to heal wounds from the past. And scars that can still be seen.

"Until we can really stare that in the face and say, 'You know what, that's who we've been, but that's not what we have to be,' we're stuck," added Sanders.

"There's so much more work to do," said state Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) at the bill signing.

Private funds are being raised to implement Colorado's racial equity study.

History Colorado will do the research seeking to quantify the economic impacts of discrimination.

Full Confidential Report on the Minorities of Denver 1947_001 by CBS News Colorado on Scribd
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.