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Abigail Thernstrom (born 1936) is an American political scientist and a leading conservative scholar on race relations.[1] She is currently an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.[2] She was formerly Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, and vice chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights under George W. Bush. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard University in 1975.

Thernstrom and her husband, Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, are the co-authors of America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible, which the New York Times Book Review named as one of the notable books of 1997. In 2007, she and her husband (along with James Q. Wilson, Martin Feldstein, and John Bolton), were the recipients of a Bradley Foundation prize for Outstanding Intellectual Achievement.[3] She serves on several boards, including the Center for Equal Opportunity[4] and the Institute for Justice. From 1992-97 she was a member of the Aspen Institute's Domestic Strategy Group.[3]

President Bill Clinton chose her as one of three authors to participate in his first "town meeting" on race in Akron, Ohio, on December 3, 1997, and she was part of a small group that met with the President again in the Oval Office on December 19, 1997. She has spoken out against redistricting to create more minority dominated districts to support their interests, citing that racial barriers have fallen significantly to the point that it is not necessary and may be detrimental. She stated that with the election of Obama to presidency, that it does signify the disappearance of racial barriers.[5]

Her daughter is the writer Melanie Thernstrom.


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  3. ^ a b Official Biography, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights website; accessed October 9, 2014.
  4. ^ Center for Equal Opportunity website; accessed October 9, 2014.
  5. ^ Rachel Swarns (August 24, 2008). "Blacks Debate Civil Rights Risk in Obama's Rise". NY Times. Retrieved August 8, 2012.

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