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date: 18 March 2019

Affirmative Action

Black Women in America

Michelle Brown Douglas,

Dolores E. Battle

Affirmative Action 

The concept of affirmative action in America has been explored by sociologists, philosophers, legal scholars, journalists, and politicians. Although less than 2 percent of the 91,000 employment discrimination cases pending before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are reverse discrimination cases, those opposed to affirmative action programs frequently cite reverse discrimination and so-called quotas as having a negative impact on the professional and educational lives of white males. Politicians have either opposed or supported affirmative action programs. Few have viewed affirmative action from its original purpose, which was to take affirmative steps to incorporate minorities and women into the workforce. In examining the impact of affirmative action on women in America, it is necessary to review the history of equality for all persons in the United States and the underrepresentation of persons from minority groups and of women in the workforce in America.

Beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that followed the Civil War, African American women have been on a steady road of advancement, encountering quite a few roadblocks, but persevering nonetheless. It was not until the civil rights movement of the 1960s that African American women began to benefit from legislation that gave them equal protection under the law as African Americans and as women.

Evolution of Affirmative Action in Employment in America

The need for affirmative action has its roots in the Constitution of the United States, which from its inception favored white people of European origin. The color conscious basis of the Constitution was upheld in Dred Scott v. Sanford (60 U.S. 393, 1857). It was not until the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that the nation began to take corrective measures to regard all of its citizens as equal under the law. The foundation of affirmative action in America began with the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, guaranteed equal protection under the law, and forbade racial discrimination in access to voting, respectively. During the Reconstruction era, Congress adopted a series of laws that extended the rights of full citizenship to African Americans. As with most legislation of this time, the people who most benefited from these laws were men. In spite of the laws, the struggle for African American women to reach full parity with white males would reach into the twentieth century and beyond.

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Annie May Bankhead

defending the Economic Opportunity Agency, 22 October 1985. Bankhead (1904-1989) devoted her life to community service. Arkansas History Commission; Jeff Mitchell, photographer

The little known Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, or ethnicity in contractual relationships. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was the first attempt to declare that, “all persons within the jurisdiction of the U.S. shall be entitled to full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations...applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude” but was declared unconstitutional in 1883. Notably absent from both of these early civil rights acts was reference to women. Indeed, the early civil rights laws focused on race as a way to address the injustices of the black codes that appeared after slavery.

Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U.S. 538, 1896) validated the separate but equal philosophy and established a legal basis for widespread segregation and differential treatment based on race. Separate but equal provisions in the law would continue into the 1950s. Some of the early programs related to employment and training, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, Civilian Pilot Training, the National Youth Administration, and Nurses Training continued to be color conscious and to provide separate but equal benefits. It was not until the New Deal period of the 1930s that legislation containing nondiscrimination provisions related to employment and training appeared. The Unemployment Relief Act (1933) and the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) incorporated the principle of equal job opportunity and prohibited discrimination.

First Appearance

The term “affirmative action” first appeared in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act intended to prevent discrimination against union members. Under the Act, employers were compelled to cease discriminatory actions against union members and to take affirmative action to restore the victims of discrimination to the positions they would have held if not for illegal discrimination. The National Labor Relations Act opened the doors for federal oversight of employee and employer relations. However, employers found the term “affirmative action” to be discriminatory. It was not used in a civil rights context for another twenty-five years.

During World War II, concern arose in the United States over the contradictory stance of discriminating on the basis of race at home while simultaneously fighting against a racist dictator abroad. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued in 1941 the first executive order intended to advance the cause of civil rights. Executive Order No. 8802 banned discrimination in employment by federal defense contractors and by the government itself. The order prohibited discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin. It did not, however, prohibit discrimination against women.

Continuing in Roosevelt’s footsteps, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower signed several executive orders concerning civil rights and established economic opportunity committees and agencies. However, these committees and agencies had no enforcement powers. They were, instead, responsive agencies that could merely address grievances filed with the agencies alleging that discrimination had taken place. They could not initiate investigations nor in any way monitor or regulate the employers within their jurisdiction.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order No. 10925, the first to use the term “affirmative action.” The order prohibited federal government contractors from discriminating based on race. Like those before it, the order did not mention women or gender. The order formed President Kennedy’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (PCEEO), the first such committee empowered to impose fines and sanctions for violation of the order. This new enforcement power made the committee distinctive from others such as those established by Truman and Eisenhower. The agency, however, played only a responsive role and thus was limited by the difficult task of finding proof that discrimination had occurred.

In spite of the best intentions of the various approaches to eliminate discrimination by color-blind approaches, the agencies saw the need to have data to show quantifiable measurements to prove discrimination had occurred. During the Kennedy administration, the PCEEO coordinated a program called “Plans for Progress,” essentially an early affirmative action program. The program collected data on the employment of persons from minority groups as evidence of fair employment practices and possible discrimination.

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most important civil rights legislation in the history of the United States, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. The following year, President Johnson issued Executive Order No. 11246, which has been cited by A. H. Goldman as the immediate source of affirmative action programs. The order states in unambiguous language that federal “contractors will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, or national origin.” In 1968, in Executive Order No. 11375, President Johnson amended his original order to add a proscription against discrimination on the basis of an individual’s gender. President Johnson’s Executive Order became the first to protect women through the affirmative action programs established by the federal government. Black women could now benefit from affirmative action. The agencies founded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Orders No. 11246, and 11375 were the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCC). Their task was to “eliminate race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and national origin from the reality perceived by American employers”; that is, to end employment discrimination on the basis of these variables, including gender.

Like the committees that preceded it, the EEOC was originally organized as a responsive agency that would investigate charges of discrimination in employment. By 1966, it became clear that the responsive approach was not creating the desired result of increased employment opportunities for persons from minority groups and women. The EEOC required employers to substantiate through statistics that no discrimination had taken place and required employers to present plans to show how they would address underrepresentation of women and persons from minority groups in their workforce.

The OFCC went one step further and devised model affirmative action plans to guide the development of affirmative action based on numerical data of employees. Underrepresentation was considered evidence of previous discrimination. The employers were required to develop plans that would show how they would create programs to reverse the effect of presumed previous discrimination. Thus, in spite of specific prohibition against preferential treatment for any individual or to any group because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (section 703 j), the EEOC and OFCC instituted policies that required plans to remedy underrepresentation of individuals in the workforce, a decision that some subsequently interpreted as an offer of preferential treatment. It is this aura of “preferential treatment” for certain groups that has led to the opposition and resistance to affirmative action in employment and education.

Women in the History of Affirmative Action

Women have been engaged in the struggle for equal treatment in employment and education since the founding of the United States. Recognizing that the U.S. Constitution favored males, women activists fought for recognition of their rights under the law. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony held the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in July 1848. It was during this convention that Elizabeth Cady Stanton developed the Declaration of Sentiments that stated, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal.” This became the rallying cry for a series of demands by women for better education, employment opportunities, and the right to vote.

From the beginning, the struggles of African American women for equal treatment in employment were subsumed by the larger struggle for equality for all African American men. As African American men gained some rights as citizens through the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, African American women recognized that their struggle was on two fronts, as African Americans and as women. They recognized that if they were to achieve parity, they had to work with other women, including white women, to obtain equal status with men. African American women joined forces with white women in the suffrage movement to obtain voting rights for women.

The African American women’s club movement was prominent in lobbying for the rights of African American women, particularly for suffrage. Although much of the women’s club work was focused on uplifting the entire race, the movement recognized a connection with the larger suffrage movement in acquiring rights for African American women.

Prominent African American women championed the suffrage movement as a means of acquiring voting rights for black women. Among the leaders was Mary Church Terrell, who was active in the National American Woman Suffrage Association. With Josephine Ruffin, Terrell formed the Federation of Afro-American Women, and in 1896 she became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). The NACW actively sought association and membership in white women’s organizations to increase its political influence. During World War I, Terrell, her daughter Phyllis Terrell, and Ida Wells-Barnett joined Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, founders of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS), in the suffrage movement.

Ida Wells-Barnett felt that the right to vote would improve the status of African American women. She founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, believed to be the first black women’s suffrage group. Black and white women worked together in the organization for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to secure the right to vote. During an organized march for women’s suffrage in 1913, members of the predominantly white Congressional Union for Women Suffrage asked Ida Wells-Barnett not to march with other members. They feared that their identification with African Americans would lose them the support of white women in the South. In spite of their protests, Ida Wells-Barnett integrated the Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC, by marching with the Illinois Suffrage delegation as a representative of Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club. To focus the efforts of both African American and white suffragettes, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns founded the National Women’s Party in 1916.

Victory, Eventually

The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 gave women the right to vote. However, it was quickly discovered that the privileges of the right to vote would not immediately be conferred upon African American women. Having courted the support of black women’s groups during the fight for suffrage, white women’s groups quickly closed ranks to exclude them from the fruits of what should have been a shared victory. Many white women distanced themselves from the issues of black women in the belief that their support might be mistaken for approval of racial equality, a still-untenable position for many in white society. Black women remained aware that their economic and educational parity as women was integral to their progress as was race. During the period from 1920 to 1960, African American women continued to advocate equal rights on the basis of gender through women’s clubs and increased political involvement.

In 1921, Alice Paul wrote the first Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which stated that men and women should have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. The amendment was introduced to Congress in 1923 and to every Congress until it was passed in 1972. The amendment was ratified by thirty-five states, but not the thirty-eight needed by the July 1982 deadline for it to become law. Paul championed equal rights in the United Nations charter and actively campaigned for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From Suffrage to Affirmative Action in Employment

Mary McLeod Bethune saw the advancement of black women as integral to advancement of the race. Bethune was a leader in the black women’s club movement and served as president of the National Association of Colored Women and the National Council of Negro Women. She believed in political action as a means of gaining equality. Bethune recognized the importance of creating economic opportunities through jobs as a means of advancing the race. Through her work with the National Council of Negro Women, she established programs that trained black women for civil service and public administration positions. She lobbied for black women to get involved in the political process.

Under her leadership, the Council lobbied for reform in civil service employment. Bethune became active in the Roosevelt administration. She secured many positions for black women as administrators in New Deal programs. Bethune served as Director of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration from 1936 to 1944. She was also a consultant to the U.S. Secretary of War for selection of the first female officer candidates. As a member of President Roosevelt’s Federal Council of Negro Affairs, also known as the “Black Cabinet,” Bethune influenced the President’s civil rights decisions. Working with the African American trade union leader A. Philip Randolph, Bethune urged President Roosevelt to issue Executive Order No. 8802, which prohibited discriminatory hiring by defense businesses with federal contracts and established a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC).

The formation of the FEPC had an immediate effect on job opportunities for African American women. Many women, including a significant number of white and African American women, were employed in defense plants during World War II. However, at the end of the war, women, including black women, were fired because returning white soldiers were in need of jobs. Wartime employment experience had still managed to empower women as members of the paid economy and left them ready for employment parity. The formation of the FEPC created a blueprint for the affirmative action policy of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Following World War II and continuing the precedent established by President Roosevelt, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower issued various executive orders concerning civil rights. Executive Order No. 9980 created the Fair Employment Board within the Civil Service Commission. The Commission called for equal opportunity in jobs and education regardless of race, color, or national origin. The Commission also suggested a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission and the strengthening of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Sadie Alexander, one of the first black women to receive a doctorate and the first African American to receive a PhD in economics, to the Committee on Civil Rights. During her tenure, the report of the committee, To Secure These Rights, was released and became the foundation of the civil rights movement and the basis for future civil rights policy and legislation. In 1948, based on the findings of the Commission, President Truman extended the equal opportunity provision of Executive Order No. 9980 to include women.

In 1948 President Truman issued Executive Order No. 9981 banning segregation in the armed forces and guaranteeing fair employment practices in the civil service. That same year, the Federal Employment Board was created to give persons from minority groups equal treatment in federal employment agencies. In 1951, Truman introduced Executive Order No. 10308, which established the Committee on Government Contract Compliance (CGCC). Companies that wanted to do business with the federal government by supplying arms and matériel had to have an equal hiring policy toward minorities. Although it had no enforcement powers, the CGCC was a forerunner of the EEOC. In 1953, President Truman’s Committee on Government Contract Compliance urged the Bureau of Employment Security to “act positively and affirmatively to implement the policy of nondiscrimination” in hiring. The term “affirmative action” was not used until twelve years later in 1965.

The Civil Rights Movement and Affirmative Action

The civil rights activism of the 1950s and 1960s led to popular recognition of affirmative action in the 1970s. This earlier civil rights activity was directed at ensuring equal protection under the law for persons from racial minority groups. Not until the civil unrest of the 1960s did the hope emerge that African American women as a distinct group could benefit from any type of civil rights legislation.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy used Executive Order No. 10925 to form the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (PCEEO). The order prohibited federal government contractors from discriminating based on race. The committee, originally chaired by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, was empowered to impose fines or sanctions for violation of the order. This new enforcement power made the committee distinctive from other such bodies that had existed in the past.

In 1963 Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which made it illegal for employers to pay different salaries to those doing the same job because of gender differences. The establishment of the Equal Pay Act was the first national civil rights legislation to focus primarily on gender with regard to employment discrimination. The Department of Labor was responsible for enforcement until 1978. Women had struggled for decades for salaries that were equal to those of men. In 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most significant federal legislation related to nondiscrimination. Title VII of the act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin, and is applicable to private employers, employment agencies, and labor unions. Its purpose was to prohibit discrimination in recruitment, hiring, wages, and almost every other aspect of employment. It applied to public accommodations, governmental services, and education.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was charged to eliminate unlawful employment discrimination. Employers were prohibited from discriminating against members of racial minority groups and women in hiring and other employment practices. However, the act did not require employers to ensure that these groups were included in the applicant pools for employment possibilities.

In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson also signed Executive Order No. 11246, affirming the government’s commitment to promote equal opportunity in companies with federal contracts. This order is considered to be the basis of modern affirmative action. The order required that federal contractors not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In addition, contractors were also required to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants were employed, and that employees were treated fairly during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Contractors were also required to state in all solicitations or advertisements that all qualified applicants would receive consideration for employment without regard to race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. Not only were contractors required to provide color-blind hiring but employers were also actively encouraged to broaden their pool of applicants to include African Americans and other minorities. It was no longer permissible to only give fair treatment to minorities that happened to be in the applicant pool. Employers were required to take positive steps to increase the number of qualified minorities in their applicant pools.

Johnson v. Transportation Agency of Santa Clara in 1987 was the first case in which the Court accepted an affirmative action plan that provided preferential treatment for women. In the case, a male and a female applicant were considered equally qualified for the position; however, the female was hired. The county thought that hiring the female would be a good opportunity to advance and promote a female candidate to a skilled craft position where women were a significant minority. The Court upheld the hiring because gender was but one of several factors considered in the hiring decision.

Affirmative Action and Women

Although African American women were integral to the civil rights movement that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order No. 11246, the impact of the legislation was not perceived as having immediately benefited women in general and African American women in particular. Although the order originally prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, and national origin, it did not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. Barriers to equality based on gender and race persisted. In 1967, President Johnson signed Executive Order No. 11375, which amended the provisions of Executive Order No. 11246 to include prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender.

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Orders No. 11246 and 11375, African American women made progress at all levels of the educational, political, and economic arenas. The activism of African American women through the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) reinforced that progress.

In 1966, African American women, led by the African American writer and Episcopal minister Pauli Murray, combined forces with white women, including Betty Friedan, to form the National Organization for Women (NOW). The organization strove to ensure

that the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women, as well as for Negroes and other deprived groups. (Friedan and Murray)

NOW became the primary lobbying group for the passage and enforcement of affirmative action measures. NOW was different from other women’s organizations of its period because African American women were often at the helm, and the specific needs of black women as both racial and gender minorities were recognized. One of NOW’s priorities was to end racial discrimination as well as gender discrimination. Affirmative action was designed to recognize and remove the barriers to persons unfairly excluded from employment or barred from advancement because of illegal discrimination. The history of the United States illustrates that the groups primarily affected by illegal discrimination were members of minority groups and women. However, through the work of the civil rights movement, other groups were recognized as the targets of discrimination, including Vietnam-era veterans and persons with disabilities. As a result, nondiscrimination in employment extended to persons with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 prohibited discrimination against Vietnam Veterans and required employers with fifty or more workers and contracts of $50,000 or more to provide a written affirmative action plan to assure that appropriate steps were taken to employ veterans.

Affirmative Action in Education

Affirmative action as a concept originated in areas of employment. However, as the concept of nondiscrimination developed, its principles were applied to education, since education was seen as the road to employment. Landmark cases such as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978 and later Hopwood v. Texas affected educational opportunities for women, but colleges and universities continued to apply affirmative action principles to college admission programs to increase the diversity of their student bodies. Subsequent challenges in California, Florida, and Michigan brought affirmative action programs regarding admissions in higher education under further scrutiny. Even if not specifically directed at women or African American women, any challenge to affirmative action is a challenge to the principles of nondiscrimination, which have been at issue in the United States since its founding.

Final Thoughts

Affirmative action resulted in the integration of minorities and women into the workforce. This was accomplished by administrative enforcement of policies to raise the economic class status of minorities and defuse racial tensions in the urban centers of America during the pre-civil rights movement. Affirmative action has been beneficial in the educational and vocational advancement of African American women. As Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated during the celebration of Women’s History Month 2003, “the history of women in the United States offers an inspiring story of how a subordinated group struggled to achieve its political and social rights and thereby helped this country to live up to its creed.”

See also Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell; Bethune, Mary McLeod; Civil Rights Movement; Murray, Pauli; Suffrage; Terrell, Mary Eliza Church; and Wells-Barnett, Ida B.


Amott, Teresa, and Julie Matthaei. Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural. Economic History of Women in the United States. Boston: South End Press, 1996. This is an economic analysis of the role of women laborers in the development of capitalism. It contains a valuable chapter entitled “We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible,” which focuses specifically on African American women, their labor, their contributions to the economy, and the impact of capitalism and racism on their status in American society.Find this resource:

Bell, Ella L. J., and Stella M. Nkomo. Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2001. Bell and Nkomo, both professors of business, analyze the shared and distinct experiences of African American and white women in corporate America. The authors interviewed over eight hundred African American and white women about their perceptions of the workplace as well as each other. It is a valuable study because it provides a firsthand account of the experiences of black and white women in corporate America.Find this resource:

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 1991. Collins’s work examines the development of black feminism as a movement and ideology distinct from mainstream feminism. It introduces the important discussion of the interconnectedness of race, gender, and class as it relates to African American women.Find this resource:

Costello, Cynthia, ed. The American Woman, 2003-2004: Daughters of a Revolution—Young Women Today. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. The focus is on contemporary young women between the ages of twenty and thirty-five. It is an examination of their present status and how they have benefited from the past struggles of women, containing important statistical information by a variety of experts.Find this resource:

Edley, Christopher, Jr., and George Stephanopoulos. Affirmative Action Review: Report to the President. 19 July 1995. This report was submitted to President Bill Clinton by George Stephanopoulos, Senior Adviser to the President for Policy and Strategy, and Christopher Edley Jr., Special Counsel to the President, on 19 July 1995. The report is a review of federal affirmative action programs based upon research done by other entities, including the Justice Department, the Government Accounting Office, and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Stephanopoulos and Edley conclude that discrimination based on race and gender still exists and submit policy recommendations, “The Justifications for Affirmative Action,” to the President.Find this resource:

Friedan, Betty, and Pauli Murray. “The National Organization for Women’s 1966 Statement of Purpose.” This statement of purpose was adopted at NOW’s first national conference in Washington, DC, on 29 October 1966. It outlines the basis for forming the organization and its goals. What is significant about this statement is that unlike other women’s organizations of its time, NOW acknowledged race as being an important component in the struggle for women’s rights.Find this resource:

Goldman, A. H. Justice and Reverse Discrimination. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979. Goldman’s work is an examination of the arguments for and against affirmative action, with particular attention to attacks against affirmative action as preferential treatment and reverse discrimination. The text provides a good chronology of the development of affirmative action policy and also introduces the discussion of affirmative action in a moral context.Find this resource:

Hanson, Joyce Ann. Mary McLeod Bethune and Black Women’s Political Activism. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003. Hanson presents an even analysis of Bethune’s life work. This source is of particular value because of its examination of her role in the Roosevelt administration and her directing club activity into political activism.Find this resource:

Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present. New York: Basic Books, 1985. Jones explores the role of black women as laborers and in the family from the period of slavery to the 1980s. This text is a comprehensive look at black women’s development as laborers. It provides a good look at the period of the civil rights movement (1955-1975) and the activism of African American women.Find this resource:

Kotlowski, Dean J. Nixon’s Civil Rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. This text documents the development of Richard Nixon’s policy on civil rights. The text places particular emphasis on Nixon’s Philadelphia Plan, which was the foundation for his affirmative action policy. It provides useful factual information on the evolution of affirmative action policy and legislation.Find this resource:

Lawrence, Charles R., III, and Mari J. Matsuda. We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. This work is an historical analysis in support of affirmative action interspersed with personal stories. The text provides useful factual information detailing the evolution of affirmative action policy.Find this resource:

Lerner, Gerda. The Female Experience: An American Documentary. New York: Macmillan, 1985. Lerner’s work examines the experiences of American women through a collection of primary sources. This document provides a good analysis of the evolution of the women’s movement on a personal level.Find this resource:

Schechter, Patricia Ann. Ida Wells-Barnett and American Reform: 1880-1930. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. This current biography looks at Wells-Barnett’s activity in reform movements, which cuts across the lines of race and gender. Of particular value is the examination of her role in the suffrage movement and the reaction of white women to the participation of black women in the struggle for the vote.Find this resource:

United States Commission on Civil Rights. The Economic Status of Black Women: An Exploratory Investigation, October 1990. This 1990 report analyzes the economic development of African American women in the United States from the period 1940 to 1980. Relying on census data, the report tracks the transition of black women’s labor from beginning primarily in low status occupations such as domestic labor to reaching some parity with white women at the corporate level. This advancement is attributed to educational attainment and legislation.Find this resource:

United States Department of Labor. Glass Ceiling Study, Glass Ceiling Commission, 1991. The Federal Glass Ceiling commission was a twenty-one member commission appointed by President George Bush in 1990. The commission systematically gathered information on women of all races in private top sector management. The commission looked specifically at the barriers to advancement that affect women in Corporate America. The study concludes that barriers exist that operate to exclude minorities and women from top levels of management.Find this resource:

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Women of Color: Their Employment in the Private Sector, 2003. This report examines employment of white and underrepresented minority women in the private sector and analyzes charges of discrimination received by either the EEOC or Fair Employment Practices Commission. It concludes that certain industries have higher rates of charges of discrimination than others. Automotive dealers and service stations had the highest rate of charges whereas firms in engineering and management services were least likely to be subject to charges of discrimination.Find this resource:

Michelle Brown Douglas

Dolores E. Battle