Abigail Thernstrom

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Abigail M. Thernstrom is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York, and a highly partisan Republican commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. The author of a highly acclaimed book critical of affirmative action in 1987, Whose Votes Count: Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights, Thernstrom and her husband, Harvard University history professor Stephan Thernstrom, have subsequently written three more anti-affirmative action books.

Since 2003, Thernstrom has become an outspoken advocate for high-stakes testing in public schools, contending "State testing is forcing public schools to teach illiterate students to read". [1]

In 2001, Thernstrom vigorously challenged allegations of systematic bias against minorities in the 2000 Florida presidential elections. [2] She also supported removing all Democrats from the United States Civil Rights Commission, which had documented the systematic bias: "The political appointees involved with this commission should have resigned with the old administration. The Bush administration should get them out." [3]

In 2002, Thernstrom broke ranks with Republicans in the scandal involving Trent Lott's segregationist ties, authoring a controversial Op-Ed in the New York Times that urged Lott to step down for the good of the Republican party. [4]

In 1993, Thernstrom was instrumental in leading the opposition to the confirmation of Lani Guinier, who had been nominated by then-President Bill Clinton to the post of assistant attorney general for civil rights. Thernstrom was accused of fabricating quotes in an editorial she had written for The New Republic magazine, allegedly concocting fictitious positions and quotes and attributing them to Guinier. [5]

In a scathing review of Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom's 1997 book, Beyond the Color Line, Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy took issue with the Thernstrom's purported neutrality:

'The authors try to place themselves at the vital center of racial politics: "We quarrel with the left--its going-nowhere picture of black America and white racial attitudes," but "we also quarrel with the right--its see-no-evil view." In actuality, however, they unremittingly berate "the left" but rarely challenge the settled understandings of conservative or neoconservative readers.' [6]

Thernstrom first attracted the attention of conservatives with a thundering denunciation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Public Interest magazine in 1978. She "distinguished herself with her hostility toward any method of promoting black and minority representation". [7]


Books authored or co-authored by Abigail Therstrom

  • No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (Simon & Schuster, 2003) (ISBN 0743204468)
  • Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity (Hoover Institution Press, January 2002) (ISBN 0817998721)
  • America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible (Simon & Schuster, September 1997) (ISBN 0684844974)
    • Named a "Notable Book of 1997" by The New York Times Book Review
  • Whose Votes Count: Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights (Harvard Univ Press, September 1987) (ISBN 0674951956)

External links

  • Randall Kennedy, The Glass Is Not Half Full: Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom's overly optimistic America in Black and White. (book review), Slate.com, October 15, 1997
  • Adam Shatz, The Thernstroms in Black and White, The American Prospect, March 12, 2001
  • Eric Alterman, The 'Right' Books and Big Ideas, The Nation, November 4, 1999