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The Oral History of Affirmative Action: Reconstructing the Philadelphia Plan and Arthur Fletcher
David Hamilton Golland, Assistant Professor of History, Governors State University
Oral history plays an important role in the African American tradition, owing largely to the dearth of documentary sources, and the skewing of perspective in favor of those who created such documents. I drew on this tradition as I conducted oral histories, and interrogated recorded interviews, while researching my two books. The first, Constructing Affirmative Action: The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity (University Press of Kentucky, 2011), charts the development of the Philadelphia Plan, the federal government's first affirmative action program. The second, A Terrible Thing to Waste: Arthur Fletcher and the Conundrum of the Black Republican (University Press of Kansas, 2019) is a biography of Arthur Fletcher (1924-2005), who launched the Revised Philadelphia Plan in 1969 as assistant secretary of labor in the Nixon administration and returned to federal service as White House advisor during the Ford administration, vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in the Reagan Administration, and chairman of the US Civil Rights Commission during the first Bush administration. This paper will focus on the role, limitations, and possibilities of oral history in the development of both projects.
Dr. David Hamilton Golland is professor of history, coordinator of humanities, and president of the faculty senate at Governors State University. He holds a PhD from the City University of New York and an MA from the University of Virginia. His books, Constructing Affirmative Action: The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity (University Press of Kentucky, 2011) and A Terrible Thing to Waste: Arthur Fletcher and the Conundrum of the Black Republican (University Press of Kansas, 2019), have garnered positive reviews in the American Historical Review, the Journal of American History, and the Journal of Southern History, among others. Additionally, A Terrible Thing to Waste is the 2020-2021 Washburn University iRead selection. Dr. Golland has also published articles in California History, Critical Issues in Justice and Politics, The Claremont Journal of Religion, and the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine Perspectives on History.
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