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Affirmative action began as a broad set of activities brought forth by the civil rights movement beginning in the 1930s. As such, the term affirmative action initially represented a composite of deliberate activities designed to create or restore the rights of African Americans in American society. The term has come to have both positive and negative connotations. In more recent decades, it has come to be viewed, on the one hand, as a set of programs or policies to level the playing field so as to counter discrimination against persons of color and women in employment and in education. On the other, detractors of affirmative action view such programs as preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of their membership in a minority group. This ...

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