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History of Affirmative Action

             Affirmative action is not a uniquely modern concept. Although the policy was not introduced on a national level until the 1960's, the need to take positive steps to rectify discrimination's impact has been recognized since the Civil War. During the Reconstruction era, several organizations, such as the Freeman's Bureau, were established to create opportunities for former slaves, particularly in the south. These organizations were mildly successful in bringing about African American rights. However, in 1873, the equality policies, implemented in the south by the federal government, were overturned and replaced with a system of legal segregation. The imposition of segregation, or Jim Crow laws, stripped African Americans of many of the rights they had gained during the 19th century. Affirmative Action would not be considered again until 70 years later. .
             The Rebirth of Equal Opportunity.
             In 1943, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which called for contractors to guarantee nondiscrimination in employment in government-funded projects. Employment of minorities increased greatly in these industries until to 1945, when the world saw the end of World War II. Sadly, the gains of minorities in such industries dissolved after wartime. .
             When President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925 on March 6, 1961, he became the first person to use affirmative action. Building upon Executive Order 8802, Kennedy instructed federal contractors to take "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." This order spawned the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (EEOC). The EEOC, still in existence today, was created to end discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in employment and to promote programs to make equal employment opportunity a reality. Following in Kennedy's steps, President Lyndon Johnson, would go on to establish the most important civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction.

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