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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois in the Cold War Era 1945-1975: Affirmative Action at the University of Illinois

Affirmative Action


A newsletter detailing the progress of Affirmative action policy at U of I, circa 1975

The phrase “affirmative action” was first used in President Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 Executive Order 11246 which required federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”  In 1967, Johnson expanded the Executive Order to include affirmative action requirements for women as well.  What resulted was the United States most determined effort to remedy its lengthy record of racial and sexual discrimination.

In the post-Reconstruction era, official, government-sanctioned inequality began in 1896, when the Supreme Court's ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate, but equal” doctrines were constitutional.  The results were anything but equal for African Americans, and Jim Crow laws spread across the South.  In addition, many of the significant programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were fashioned in an inequitable way.  New Deal liberals were forced to relent to Southern Democratic demands that excluded domestics and farm workers from government protections and programs.  The GI Bill, passed in 1944 to reintroduce soldiers to civilian life, favored white veterans by turning the doling out of benefits to local governments where discrimination was often a matter of law and policy, thereby guaranteeing that blacks would be excluded from many of the housing and educational benefits.

As the Black Civil Rights and Feminist Movements prospered in the 1960s, affirmative action was proposed as a means to rectify American discrimination of both the official and informal kinds. Affirmative Action policies commonly set goals and timetables for improved diversity - and utilize recruitment, set-asides and preferences as a means of attaining those objectives.

University of Illinois Sources:

Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action Office Issuances, 1968-1997 (RS 24/9/803)

The Board of Trustees Reports, 1867- (RS 1/1/802): The reports from 1968-70 deal with many African American issues including Project 500, a program designed to bring 500 minority students to the U of I in 1968.

President John Corbally Staff Subject File, 1960-76 (RS: 2/13/13): Includes contracts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, proposals and reports concerning Affirmative Action.

President Stanley Ikenberry Subject File, 1979-1997 (RS: 2/14/5): Includes contracts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, proposals and reports concerning Affirmative Action.

Provost’s Office Correspondence, 1965-1974 (RS: 5/1/2)

Vice President for Academic Affairs Subject File, 1965-1984 (RS: 5/1/3):  Subject file of Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs Eldon Johnson, Peter Yankwich, and Morton Weir includes speeches concerning Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity.

Dean’s Office Administrative Subject File, 1963-85 (RS: 7/1/7)

Afro-American Studies and Research Program Subject File, 1948-2003 (RS: 15/42/5): Box 2 includes information on the Affirmative Action plans at the U of I.

Joseph S. Moag, “Affirmative Action and the University of Illinois” Afro-American Studies and Research Program Subject File, 1948-2003 (RS: 15/42/5)

Chancellor’s Office Ombudsman's Subject File, 1960-1992 (RS: 24/1/11): Includes files of University ombudsmen concerning affirmative action reports and procedures.

Chancellor’s Office Nonacademic Office Subject File, 1963-88 (RS: 24/9/1): Includes Affirmative Action policies and procedures.

Chancellor’s Office Affirmative Action Subject File, 1968-1989 (RS: 24/9/2)

Dean of Students Equal Employment Opportunity Committee Records, 1979-1987  (RS: 41/1/60): Includes reports concerning Affirmative Action requirements for academic and non-academic searches.

Dean's Subject File, 1943-1963, 1973-1988 (RS: 41/2/31)

Daily Illini, 1874- (Microform in Newspaper Library)


Terry H. Anderson, The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action ( New York: 2004).

Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (New York: 2005).

Nicholas Laham, The Reagan Presidency and the Politics of Race: In Pursuit of Colorblind Justice and Limited Government (Westport, CT: 1998).

Jane Loeb, et al., “The Effectiveness of Affirmative Action for Women,” Journal of Higher Education 49:3 (1978), 218-230. 

Jo Ann Ooiman Robinson, ed., Affirmative Action: A Documentary History (Westport, CT: 2001).

Philip F. Rubio, A History of Affirmative Action, 1619-2000 (Jackson, MS: 2001).

Robert J. Weiss, “We want jobs”: A History of Affirmative Action (New York: 1997).

Joy Williamson, Black Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-1975. (Champaign: 2003).