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  The Rise of Affirmative Action

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 William C. Kidder

William C. Kidder, The Struggle for Access from Sweatt to Grutter: a History of African American, Latino, And American Indian Law School Admissions, 1950-2000, 19 Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal 1-41 (Spring, 2003)(190 Footnotes)

 

THE RISE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: LAW SCHOOLS RESPOND WHEN AMERICA'S SOCIAL ORDER IS THREATENED

The minuscule number of students of color in law schools began to improve in the late 1960s as a result of early affirmative action programs. Table 1 and Chart 1 display the dramatic rise in African American enrollments in the late 1960s. At least partly because of the aforementioned controversy involving Griswold's testimony for the Civil Rights Act, Harvard Law School's affirmative action program, started in 1964, predates those of other law schools by three or four years. In 1965, Harvard also began a "special summer program" funded by the Rockefeller Foundation that introduced about forty African American college students from the South to the possibilities of a legal career by bringing them to Cambridge for eight weeks. Between 1964 and 1966, about half of the African Americans enrolled at Harvard Law School came from the same schools that traditionally sent a large number of White students (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, etc.), and half came from historically Black colleges in the South. A couple years later, other schools like Columbia, Boalt, and CLA started "weak" forms of affirmative action such as increased outreach, recruiting, financial aid, and summer preparation programs. However, it was the 1967 revolts in Detroit and Newark--and especially the urban uprisings that swept across America after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968-- which ruptured long-established practices of exclusion in legal education and other institutions, and, at a national level, quickly prompted "strong" affirmative action in the form of race-conscious admissions. By the late 1960s, UCLA and Boalt Hall had become the leading producers of Chicano law students in California.

Charts 2 and 3 document the rise in underrepresented minority entrants at ABA law schools from the late 1960s to the early 1970s and the leveling off that occurred thereafter. Thirty-seven American Indians graduated from ABA law schools and passed the bar exam in the first four years of the Special Scholarship Program in Law for American Indians (begun in 1967), meaning that the total number of American Indians practicing law increased about 150% in only the first few years that affirmative action was in place. At a national level, affirmative action was present in varying degrees at most law schools by about 1970. However, throughout the 1970s, law schools in the South tended to lag far behind the rest of the country with respect to affirmative action programs.

 


Legal Education Before Affirmative Action
The Rise of Affirmative Action
The Rise of the LSAT
Stalled Progress
The Fall of Affirmative Action
Contemporary Admission Environment

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2004  
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In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, some material on this website is provided for comment, background information, research and/or educational purposes only, without permission from the copyright owner(s), under the "fair use" provisions of the federal copyright laws. These materials may not be distributed for other purposes without permission of the copyright owner(s)


Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).