Cover image for The pursuit of fairness : a history of affirmative action
The pursuit of fairness : a history of affirmative action
Anderson, Terry H., 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, pages ; 25 cm
Genesis of affirmative action -- Civil rights struggle and the rise of affirmative action -- Zenith of affirmative action -- Backlash -- Demise of affirmative action in the age of diversity -- Conclusion : the pursuit of fairness.
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Table of contents
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HF5549.5.A34 A53 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Affirmative action strikes at the heart of deeply held beliefs about employment and education, about the concepts of justice and fairness, and about the troubled history of race relations in America. Published on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, this is the only bookavailable that gives readers a balanced, non-polemical, and lucid account of this highly contentious issue. Beginning with the roots of affirmative action, Anderson describes African-American demands for employment in the defense industry--spearheaded by A. Philip Randolph's threatened Marchon Washington in July 1941--and the desegregation of the armed forces after World War II. He investigates President Kennedy's historic 1961 executive order that introduced the term "affirmative action" during the early years of the civil rights movement and he examines President Johnson's attemptsto gain equal opportunities for African Americans. He describes President Nixon's expansion of affirmative action with the Philadelphia Plan--which the Supreme Court upheld--along with President Carter's introduction of "set asides" for minority businesses and the Bakke ruling which allowed the useof race as one factor in college admissions. By the early 1980s many citizens were becoming alarmed by affirmative action, and that feeling was exemplified by the Reagan administration's backlash, which resulted in the demise and revision of affirmative action during the Clinton years. Heconcludes with a look at the University of Michigan cases of 2003, the current status of the policy, and its impact. Throughout, the author weighs each side of every issue--often finding merit in both arguments--resulting in an eminently fair account of one of America's most heated debates. A colorful history that brings to life the politicians, legal minds, and ordinary people who have fought for or against affirmative action, The Pursuit of Fairness helps clear the air and calm the emotions, as it illuminates a difficult and critically important issue.

Author Notes

Terry Anderson is Professor of History at Texas AandM University. A Vietnam veteran who has taught in Malaysia, Japan, and was a Fulbright professor in China and the Mary Ball Washington Professor of American History at University College Dublin. He is the author of numerous articles on the1960s and Vietnam War, co-author of A Flying Tiger's Diary, and author of The Sixties; United States, Great Britain, and the Cold War, 1944-1947; and The Movement and the Sixties.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anderson (The Movement and the Sixties), a history professor at Texas A&M, offers a straightforward political history of affirmative action. He traces the genesis of the policy to the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, which made efforts at nondiscrimination in public works projects and the military. The Civil Rights movement birthed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as lingering questions about how to prove discrimination, how to enforce antidiscrimination orders and whether preferences were needed to overcome past discrimination. The zenith of affirmative action, it turns out, came under Richard Nixon, whose secretary of labor, George Shultz, required federal contractors to set goals and targets for minority employment. The concept soon wound up in the courts, and Anderson provides good summaries of relevant cases, from the 1978 Bakke decision to last year's cases involving the University of Michigan. The backlash began in the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan, as enforcement lagged and the Justice Department sought cases to curtail affirmative action. In the 1990s, the rhetoric shifted to "diversity," an easier concept for politicians to embrace, and university systems in California and Texas were forced to give up preferences. (The winners at select universities: Asians.) Many cities and businesses have institutionalized the policy, and affirmative action has created a very different workplace in 40 years with little damage to firm competitiveness or fair employment practices, says the author. Still, Anderson concludes by acknowledging a host of questions about whom the policy should help. Though Anderson aims at an evenhanded tone, he could have paid more attention to notable polemics on this topic. He omits examination of affirmative action programs in the U.S. military and would have done well to at least note some international experiences. Photos not seen by PW. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Anderson (Texas A&M Univ.) has written a book that has needed to be written--a concise and balanced history of affirmative action. The book begins with its genesis during WW II and traces the development and implementation of official affirmative action plans in the late 1960s and early '70s and on through the later legal and political challenges. Anderson contends that much of the debate over affirmative action has revolved around the ideal of "fairness," although, as he shows, what Americans consider to be fair continuously shifts. While the author seeks to narrate the history of affirmative action rather than submit another argument for or against it, he appears to share Justice O'Connor's opinion as delivered in the Grutter case, that the policy still has value for now, but not forever. Analytically the book has a few shortcomings. Anderson underestimates the bottom-up rather than top-down origins of affirmative action, and overestimates the degree to which there has ever been a consensus over what is fair when it comes to matters of race. Still, this readable, fair history of affirmative action deserves commendation and a wide readership. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Public and undergraduate libraries. P. B. Levy York College of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xiii
The Pursuit of Fairnessp. xv
1 Genesis of Affirmative Actionp. 1
2 Civil Rights Struggle and the Rise of Affirmative Actionp. 49
3 Zenith of Affirmative Actionp. 111
4 Backlashp. 161
5 Demise of Affirmative Action in the Age of Diversityp. 217
Conclusions The Pursuit of Fairnessp. 275
Sourcep. 285
Notesp. 287
Select Bibliographyp. 304
Indexp. 313