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The Fifth Freedom

The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972

Anthony S. Chen
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    The Fifth Freedom
    Book Description:

    Where did affirmative action in employment come from? The conventional wisdom is that it was instituted during the Johnson and Nixon years through the backroom machinations of federal bureaucrats and judges.The Fifth Freedompresents a new perspective, tracing the roots of the policy to partisan conflicts over fair employment practices (FEP) legislation from the 1940s to the 1970s. Drawing on untapped sources, Anthony Chen chronicles the ironic, forgotten role played by American conservatives in the development of affirmative action.

    Decades before affirmative action began making headlines, millions of Americans across the country debated whether government could and should regulate job discrimination. On one side was an interfaith and interracial bloc of liberals, who demanded FEP legislation that would establish a centralized system for enforcing equal treatment in the labor market. On the other side was a bloc of business-friendly, small-government conservatives, who felt that it was unwise to "legislate tolerance" and who made common cause with the conservative wing of the Republican party. Conservatives ultimately prevailed, but their obstruction of FEP legislation unintentionally facilitated the rise of affirmative action, a policy their ideological heirs would find even more abhorrent.

    Broadly interdisciplinary,The Fifth Freedomsheds new light on the role of parties, elites, and institutions in the policymaking process; the impact of racial politics on electoral realignment; the history of civil rights; the decline of New Deal liberalism; and the rise of the New Right.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3139-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  2. 1 On the Origins of Affirmative Action: Puzzles and Perspectives
    (pp. 1-31)

    The years after the Second World War were a time of optimism and confidence for most Americans. Before the breakout of armed hostilities, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had characterized America’s growing involvement in the conflict overseas as a valiant defense of “four essential human freedoms”—freedom of speech and freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want. Now the war had come and gone, and the Allies had prevailed. Democracy had triumphed over fascism, freedom over fear. To be sure, success had come at a terrible cost. Over a million military personnel died or sustained injury during the...

  3. 2 The Strange Career of Fair Employment Practices in National Politics and Policy, 1941–1960
    (pp. 32-87)

    The year 1941 marks a watershed in U.S. history. It began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt reaffirming his “all-out short-of-war” policy toward the mounting conflict across the Atlantic. Still wary of drawing isolationist criticism, FDR continued to balk at the prospect of sending American soldiers to die on European soil. Instead, he would call upon the United States to transform itself into a “great arsenal of democracy” and supply Great Britain with the munitions it desperately needed to fend off the Axis menace. American industry responded eagerly and came to life. Soon, supply ships loaded with guns, shells, and tanks...

  4. 3 Experimenting with Civil Rights: The Politics of Ives-Quinn in New York State, 1941–1945
    (pp. 88-114)

    The legislative chamber was filled with many more people than usual. Hundreds of observers sat in the audience, and scores of others stood stiffly in the back of the room, two to three rows deep. A civil rights bill outlawing job discrimination had been introduced a few weeks before, igniting one of the fiercest political controversies in recent memory. Critics of the measure had worked patiently for weeks to stage a public hearing, and earlier in the day they had taken advantage of the chance to testify, raising a litany of complaints. Now the time had come for their leader...

  5. 4 Laboratories of Democracy? The Unsteady March of Fair Employment in the States, 1945–1964
    (pp. 115-169)

    Most liberals must have felt a burst of optimism at the outset of Truman’s second term. Harry had given the Republicans hell. Running from behind during the last weeks of the historic 1948 election, he had determinedly gone on the offensive, railing against the GOP-controlled “do nothing” Congress and surging dramatically to victory in the very last days of the campaign. Perhaps the year’s most enduring political image was a photograph of a grinning, victorious Truman holding up the morning edition of theChicago Tribune, which had prematurely run a headline reading, “Dewey Beats Truman.”¹

    The interfaith, interracial group of...

  6. 5 I Have a Dream Deferred: The Fall of Fair Employment and the Rise of Affirmative Action
    (pp. 170-229)

    As late afternoon turned into dusk on July 2, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson must have felt a keen sense of exultation as he strode into the East Room of the White House. It was the zenith of his short tenure as president. After clearing a path through the treacherous political thickets of the 88th Congress and enduring one of the longest and most acrimonious filibusters in the history of the Senate, Johnson and his administration had managed to secure safe passage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Parts of the bill had been greatly weakened by the political compromises...

  7. 6 Conclusions and Implications
    (pp. 230-254)

    Studies of political development are their most compelling when it can be shown why politics and policies took the particular directions they did—and not other directions they plausibly might have. Without due consideration of historically grounded counterfactuals, arguments about the origins and development of particular policies can skirt dangerously close to tautology. As political scientist Margaret Weir notes in her study of employment policy in the United States, “[P]olicy decisions are, most obviously, choices among alternatives.” The analytical challenge is explaining why some choices were made and others were not. In their research on community colleges, sociologists Steven Brint...

  8. Abbreviations in the Notes
    (pp. 287-290)