President Lyndon B. Johnson and  Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 on September 24, 1965

"To Fulfill These Rights"

"But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result." 

 Excerpts from President Lyndon Baines Johnson's Commencement Address at Howard University, June 4, 1965


Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

In 1978, the US Supreme Court in Regents v. the University of California v. Bakke upheld the use of race as one factor in choosing among qualified applicants for college admission. At the same time, it ruled unlawful the University of California at Davis’ medical school practice of reserving seats in each entering class for disadvantaged minority students. In Bakke, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way." 438 U.S. 265 (1978)


Minority Business Enterprise Programs

Supreme Court Applies Strict Scrutiny

In public contracting, the courts have done the most to reduce the scope of constitutional latitude within which state and federal agencies may promote equal opportunity. In Richmond v. J.A. Croson, Co. (1989) the Supreme Court struck down Richmond, Virginia’s minority contracting program as unconstitutional. In 1995, the Supreme Court applied the same standard of review, the strict scrutiny standard, to a federal procurement program and held that such a program established to increase the participation of minorities and women must be justified by a compelling state interest and be narrowly tailored to further that interest. This case is known asAdarand Constructors v. Pena, later styled Adarand v. Mineta.

"Mend it, don't end it"

In 1995, President Clinton gave his famous affirmative action speech at the National Archives

"The Job of Ending Discrimination in This Country Is Not Over"

"The purpose of affirmative action is to give our nation a way to finally address the systemic exclusion of individuals of talent on the basis of their gender or race from opportunities to develop, perform, achieve and contribute. Affirmative action is an effort to develop a systematic approach to open the doors of education, employment and business development opportunities to qualified individuals who happen to be members of groups that have experienced longstanding and persistent discrimination."

President William Jefferson Clinton speech on affirmative action at the National Archives, July 19, 1995


Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), O'Connor's majority upheld the narrowly-tailored use of race in college admissions

"A Compelling Interest in Attaining a Diverse Student Body"

"Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. High-ranking retired officers and civilian military leaders assert that a highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps is essential to national security. Moreover, because universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of the Nation’s leaders, … the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. Thus, the Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body."

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)


Gen. Colin Powell Supports Affirmative Action

Gen. Colin Powell on Affirmative Action

“Equal rights and equal opportunity mean just that. They do not mean preferential treatment...I benefited from equal opportunity and affirmative action in the Army, but I was not shown preference. The Army made sure that performance would be the only measure of advancement. When equal performance does not result in equal advancement, then something is wrong with the system, and our leaders have an obligation to fix it. If a history of discrimination has made it difficult for certain Americans to meet standards, it is only fair to provide temporary means to help them catch up and compete on equal terms. Affirmative action in the best sense promotes equal consideration, not reverse discrimination.”

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