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History As It Happens

Jul 20, 2023

In his concurring opinion supporting the majority ruling striking down race-based affirmative action in college admissions, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued for a race-neutral reading of historical efforts to remediate the effects of slavery and racism. In his view, the formerly enslaved “freedmen,” who were supposed to be cared for under the Freedmen’s Bureau established after the Civil War, was formally a “race-neutral category." Thomas has spent his judicial career arguing the Fourteenth Amendment bars any form of race-conscious policymaking, and he has taken a narrow view of the rights protected under the amendment's clauses. Does he have his history right? The eminent historian of the Reconstruction era Eric Foner joins the conversation.