Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads in part: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." It is this Amendment to the federal constitution that has laid the groundwork for affirmative action programs in government and in private industry.
This research examines the development of affirmative action policies in the United States over three distinct historical epochs. The first historical period under study is the mid-1930s during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The second period is the late-1950s through the 1960s, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education and running through the era of the civil rights movement. Finally, the development of affirmative action since the 1960s is analyzed for any indications of its future in American political life.
It is exceedingly difficult to assign an actual date to when the concept of affirmative action first emerged. This depends in large part on one's definition of "affirmative action." When defined in the modern sense of the term, affirmative action probably first began to develop as an American policy in the 1930s. Nevertheless, the legal and conceptual roots of affirmative action can be traced much further back into history.
In the modern sense of the term, affirmative action can be defined as public or private actions or programs which seek to provide opportunities or other benefits to persons on the basis of, among other things, their membership in a specified group or groups. The emphasis of such benefits has usually been in regard to employment opportunities, while the beneficiary groups have generally been based on race, ethnicity or gender.
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