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The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action Paperback – Jun 15 2005

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From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A good place to get your bearings. He makes clear that the best defense of affirmative action has always been that the alternatives to it are even worse."--David L. Chappell, The New York Times

"Succeeds in presenting a dispassionate examination of affirmative action--not easy to do.... Anderson's dispassionate treatment of his subject flows from his seeing it as part of a narrow pursuit of economic fairness rather than as part of the broader pursuit of social justice."--Ted Van Dyk, Washington Post Book World

"Excellent...a very well-written, very scholarly, and very fair examination.... His use of sources, both original and secondary, provides the reader with an understanding of the political and economic dynamics of establishing affirmative action programs.... Highly recommended."--The Journal of American History

"Few books match the breadth of his story of affirmative action in the United States. Few offer so engaging a narrative voice or are capable of making a familiar story read as if it were fresh and new....Anderson skillfully weaves the story of how racism, sexism and paternalism for the disabled come out of the common cloth of American prejudices."--Timothy J. O'Neill, Law and Politics Book Review

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The origins of affirmative action Feb. 22 2005
By David A. Ward - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an important history of the origins of affirmative action as a social policy for remedying racial inequality in the United States. In contrast to popular belief, affirmative action did not emerge full-blown in the late 1960s, as Anderson demonstrates we can trace its origins to the 1930s and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal policy agenda. The book proceeds through the post World War II era to to show how thinking about such policy inititatives have shifted and changed up through the 1990s. Anderson concludes with the recent lawsuits filed against the University of Michigan and the Supreme Court's decisions on these two cases - Grutter and Gratz. The book tends to focus overly much on political history (as in politicians and the federal government) and less on grass roots social movements that forced such policy formations into the public domain. Nevertheless, it is an excellent resource for teaching undergraduates about the history of affirmative action in the U.S.
It does an excellent job of describing the extent of that discrimination and ... Jan. 3 2015
By John L. Hodge, author - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book comprehensively covers the history of affirmative action. It shows why affirmative action was needed to combat widespread racial discrimination. It does an excellent job of describing the extent of that discrimination and the shocking and devastating effects of Jim Crow. It raises but leaves open the question of its fairness going forward (from the date of its publication). I consider this book essential reading, along with Sheryll Cashin's recent "Place not Race," for anyone considering the proper role of affirmative action today.
Half of the History of Affirmative Action Sept. 21 2012
By Icy Devil - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I thought this was an interesting book, particularly in its coverage of the early days of affirmative action, before the Kennedy years. The narrative of the later years tended to bog down in the detail and was frankly less readable. What was most lacking in the book, however, was any real coverage of the effects, positive and negative, of affirmative action and of the cynical polititization of affirmative action. This is part of the history, and its absence makes this only a 50 percent effort.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good introduction to affirmative action history Aug. 6 2005
By pr52David - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Terry Anderson's book is the place to start for anyone who wishes to understand affirmative action's complex and perplexing story. Anderson's account is balanced and information packed and makes for good reading in addtion.