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When Affirmative Action Was White

An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America

Ira Katznelson


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (8/15/2016)
Paperback (1/31/2023)
MP3 CD (8/16/2016)
Compact Disc (8/16/2016)
Compact Disc (8/16/2016)


A groundbreaking work that exposes the twisted origins of affirmative action.

In this "penetrating new analysis" (New York Times Book Review) Ira Katznelson fundamentally recasts our understanding of twentieth-century American history and demonstrates that all the key programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were created in a deeply discriminatory manner. Through mechanisms designed by Southern Democrats that specifically excluded maids and farm workers, the gap between blacks and whites actually widened despite postwar prosperity. In the words of noted historian Eric Foner, "Katznelson's incisive book should change the terms of debate about affirmative action, and about the last seventy years of American history."

Praise For When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America

A fresh, highly readable, first-rate history.
— Sanford D Horowitt

A penetrating new analysis.
— Nick Kotz

Ira Katznelson has made a major contribution to the affirmative action debate[His] book makes as strong a case as I have ever seen for vigorous action to bring about equal opportunities for African-Americans.
— George M. Frederickson

A gem of a book.
— David Oshinsky

Katznelsons explosive analysis provides us with a new and painful understanding of how politics and race intersect.
— Henry Louis Gates Jr.

When Affirmative Action Was White was one of the first books that helped me concretely understand how racism was embedded into federal policy.
— Clint Smith, author of Counting Descent

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393328516, 272pp.

Publication Date: August 17, 2006

About the Author

Ira Katznelson is Columbia University's Interim Provost, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, and Deputy Director of Columbia World Projects. Having served as president of the American Political Science Association, he is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is also the author of When Affirmative Action Was White and Fear Itself, winner of the Bancroft Prize in History (2014).