Post Civil Rights Era
African Americans did not emerge from the civil rights movement fully integrated into American society; this is evident by the disproportionately large numbers of blacks who are in poverty, under-educated, and incarcerated. Nevertheless, the civil rights movement did force the end of legal segregation, and spur the creation of a sizeable black middle class. In the 21st century, race relations remain a contentious issue in many sections of society.
1978 June 28
In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the United States Supreme Court ruled against fixed racial quotas but upheld the use of race as one factor in making decisions on admissions for professional schools.
1988 March 22
Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, which expanded the reach of non-discrimination laws within private institutions receiving federal funds.
1991 November 21
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 was signed by President George H. W. Bush, who had previously vetoed a stronger version. This law was designed to counter recent United States Supreme Court decisions that made it more difficult for plaintiffs to prove employment discrimination and strengthened the rights of those who experienced intentional discrimination.
1992 April 29
On March 3, 1991, Los Angeles Police Department officers were videotaped brutally beating Rodney King as they arrested him; the videotape was later broadcast on local television. When a jury failed to convict four white police officers of assault and using excessive force, Los Angeles residents took to the streets in violent protest. Widespread civil unrest followed. Approximately 3,600 fires were set, there were thousands of injuries and arrests, and estimates of property damage ranged up to $1 billion. There were smaller disturbances in other cities, but order was quickly restored.
1996 November 5
Proposition 209 was approved in California, amending the state constitution. This ban on all forms of affirmative action declared, "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
2003 June 23
In one of the most significant affirmative action decisions since the 1978 Bakke case, the United States Supreme Court, in Grutter v. Bollinger, upheld, by a 5-4 vote, the University of Michigan Law School's admissions policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."
2007 June 28
In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, affirmative action suffered a major setback when a bitterly divided United States Supreme Court ruled, by a 5-4 vote, that programs in Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky, which tried to maintain diversity in schools by considering race when assigning students to schools, were unconstitutional.
On November 4, Senator Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected president of the United States, defeating Republican candidate Senator John McCain.