Race-Conscious Educational Policies Versus a “Color-Blind Constitution”: A Historical Perspective

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This article examines the origins and development of citizenship and equal rights by the Reconstruction Congress (1865–1875) to determine if it created a new constitutional order that is color blind and thus prohibits the use of racial classifications by government to achieve school desegregation and affirmative action programs. The theory of color-blind constitutionalism, although pursued relentlessly by a small cadre of radical Republicans, stood in marked contrast to the views of the moderate-conservative majority, a group virtually obsessed with the ways in which race affected fundamental questions of citizenship, civil equality, and political power. Only through a multiethnic history can we comprehend the variegated and profound ways in which racial ideology shaped the beliefs and behavior of the Reconstruction Congress and the ways in which Congress carefully crafted the meaning and intent of citizenship and equality in the new constitutional order, one that serves as the legal foundation for contemporary debates over race-conscious educational policies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-257
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007


  • affirmative action
  • color blind
  • desegregation
  • equality
  • Meredith cases
  • race conscious


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