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The Pursuit of Fairness

A History of Affirmative Action

Terry H. Anderson

Publication Date - June 2005

ISBN: 9780195182453

344 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The first concise, balanced, and engaging history of affirmative action.


Affirmative action strikes at the heart of deeply held beliefs about employment and education, about 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 book available 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 March on 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 attempts to 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 use of 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. He concludes 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.

About the Author(s)

Terry Anderson is Professor of History at Texas A&M 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 the 1960s 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.


"A carefully researched and highly detailed analysis of the development of affirmative action policy in the United States....A useful place for interested people to learn the fascinating history of this controversial policy....A readable and balanced treatment of an important policy issue that has divided Americans for decades."--J. Edward Kellough, The American Journal of Legal History

"Anderson has written an excellent book that lives up to its claim of presenting an accessible and balanced account of a highly complex story. Everybody who is interested in the issue must start with this book."--Manfred Berg, American Studies: A Quarterly

"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

"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

"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 & Politics Book Review

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