Gift Guide

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $5.13
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 80%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $5.13   
  • New (1) from $155.04   
  • Used (12) from $5.13   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.


Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by


"In a revisionist work that fundamentally recasts our understanding of twentieth-century American history, Ira Katznelson conclusively demonstrates that the economic policies enacted during the Great Depression and the ensuing decades not only excluded African Americans from attaining social parity but actually widened the gap between white and black living standards. Katznelson forces us to both reexamine historical truths and reevaluate existing social programs by tracing the origins of the twentieth century's most glaring inequality from the early days of the New Deal, when President Roosevelt was forced to make a Faustian bargain with the racist southern faction of the Democratic party." With a broad cast of characters, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Harry Truman, and Lewis Powell, among many others, When Affirmative Action Was White takes a fresh look at a neglected history of race and public policy. It is an examination of why (and how) America must shift its policies radically if it is ever to be a nation with genuinely equal prospects for all its citizens.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
As a work of history, When Affirmative Action Was White is useful … but the story Katznelson tells isn't about affirmative action in any way, shape or form. It's about bigotry, political opportunism and the misuse of power.
— The Washington Post
Nick Kotz
Katznelson argues that the case for affirmative action today is made more effectively by citing concrete history rather than through general exhortations. Studying the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society and the civil rights movements of the 1960's could not be more relevant at a time when the administration seems determined to weaken many of the federal programs that for decades have not just sustained the nation's minorities but built its solid middle class. Whether or not Katznelson's study directly influences the affirmative action debate, it serves an important purpose. With key parts of the Voting Rights Act set to expire in 2007 and other civil rights protections subject to change, we must understand a continuing reality: the insidious and recurrent racial bias in the history of American public life.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Rather than seeing affirmative action developing out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Katznelson (Desolation and Enlightenment) finds its origins in the New Deal policies of the 1930s and 1940s. And instead of seeing it as a leg up for minorities, Katznelson argues that the prehistory of affirmative action was supported by Southern Democrats who were actually devoted to preserving a strict racial hierarchy, and that the resulting legislation was explicitly designed for the majority: its policies made certain, he argues, that whites received the full benefit of rising prosperity while blacks were deliberately left out. Katznelson supports this startling claim ingeniously, showing, for instance, that while the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act was a great boon for factory workers, it did nothing for maids and agricultural laborers-employment sectors dominated by blacks at the time-at the behest of Southern politicians. Similarly, Katznelson makes a strong case that the GI Bill, an ostensibly color-blind initiative, unfairly privileged white veterans by turning benefits administration over to local governments, thereby ensuring that Southern blacks would find it nearly impossible to participate. This intriguing study closes with suggestions for rectifying racial inequality, but its strongest merit is its subtle recalibration of a crucial piece of American history. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Katznelson (political science & history, Columbia Univ.; Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust) offers history and analysis demonstrating that the national social welfare programs of 60 and 70 years ago-e.g., Social Security, labor laws that created collective bargaining for unions, and the GI Bill-in fact gave affirmative economic opportunities to whites at the expense of racial minorities, particularly blacks. At the time, powerful U.S. House and U.S Senate Southern Democratic votes were necessary to pass any social welfare legislation, mainly owing to unified Republican opposition to federal welfare program intervention in state and local matters. Thus, these legislative acts maintained state and local control over the administration of national policies in the South and elsewhere. Until comparatively recently, these practices created significant disadvantages for African Americans striving to become part of the middle class. Katznelson proposes new policy initiatives and urges American society to reposition its conceptions about affirmative action. His insightful analysis is strongly recommended for large public libraries and university libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/05.]-Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
San Francisco Chronicle
“A fresh, highly readable, first-rate history of public policy that gives us new insights and arguments for addressing . . . undemocratic gaps of income and wealth.”— Sanford D Horowitt
Sanford D Horowitt - San Francisco Chronicle
“A fresh, highly readable, first-rate history.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“Katznelson’s explosive analysis provides us with a new and painful understanding of how politics and race intersect.”
Nick Kotz - New York Times Book Review
“A penetrating new analysis.”
George M. Frederickson - New York Review of Books
“Ira Katznelson has made a major contribution to the affirmative action debate.... [His] book makes as strong a case as I have ever seen for vigorous action to bring about equal opportunities for African-Americans.”
David Oshinsky - The Nation
“A gem of a book.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393052138
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Ira Katznelson

Ira Katznelson is Columbia University's Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History. Having served as president of the American Political Science Association, he is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is also the author of Fear Itself and When Affirmative Action Was White.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface : Du Bois's paradox
1 Doctor of laws 1
2 Welfare in black and white 25
3 Rules for work 53
4 Divisions in war 80
5 White veterans only 113
6 Johnson's ambitions, Powell's principles : thoughts on renewing affirmative action 142
App "To fulfull these rights" 173
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)