The term is believed to be coined in an executive order signed by President John F. Kennnedy dictating companies that receive federal funds “take affirmative action” to ensure they don’t discriminate in hiring on the basis of race.
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.
Johnson uses a commencement address at Howard University to declare that America owes special assistance to Black Americans for the damage done by slavery and racism.
President Richard Nixon launches a test project in Philadelphia requiring the construction industry make plans to “meet the goals of increasing minority employment.”
In Regents of University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court strikes down a quota system designed to set aside spaces for minority and poor students but upholds the ability of schools to consider race in admissions on grounds that diversity is a legitimate interest in education.
President Bill Clinton calls for an end to any program that “(a) creates a quota; (b) creates preferences for unqualified individuals; (c) creates reverse discrimination; or (d) continues even after its equal opportunity purposes have been achieved.”
California voters pass Proposition 209 requiring the state not “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
The Supreme Court rules in Grutter v. Bollinger that the University of Michigan’s law school could use race as one of many factors in selecting applicants. But in Gratz v. Bollinger, the court finds the university’s use of race as a factor in a system that assigned points to evaluate applicants was not constitutional because it did not provide “individual consideration.” In her majority opinion in Grutter, Justice Sandra Day O’connor writes, the “Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”
Michigan voters approve a constitutional amendment banning consideration of race, sex or religion for admission to publicly funded colleges and other institutions.
In Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court upholds the use of race as a factor in admissions but requires the school prove to a federal judge that “available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.” A federal appeals court approves UT’S plan the following year.
In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court upholds the Michigan constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 banning affirmative action.
In Fisher v. University of Texas, the Court again upholds the constitutionality of affirmative action.
A conservative Supreme Court majority, bolstered by three new justices appointed by President Donald Trump, hears oral arguments in two cases contesting the constitutionality of the consideration of race in college admissions.