Helping draft an executive order in 1961, Hobart Taylor Jr. almost used the word “positive”, but instead chose this alliterative phrase

On Friday, June 14, 2024, “Jeopardy!” featured a captivating Final Jeopardy question in the category “1960s America.” The clue presented was: “Helping draft an executive order in 1961, Hobart Taylor Jr. almost used the word ‘positive,’ but instead chose this alliterative phrase.” This clue refers to a significant moment in American history, specifically concerning civil rights and governmental policies.

What is Affirmative Action?

Hobart Taylor Jr. was a key figure in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. As an influential advisor and a principal architect behind several initiatives, Taylor’s contributions were pivotal in shaping civil rights policies during the 1960s. The executive order in question, Executive Order 10925, required government contractors to “take affirmative action” to ensure that applicants are employed without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin. This phrase not only replaced “positive” but also marked a foundational moment in the civil rights movement.

The choice of the phrase “Affirmative Action” over “positive” is more than a matter of wording; it signifies a proactive commitment rather than a passive stance. “Affirmative Action” suggests taking specific and proactive steps to ensure equality and fairness, a directive that aimed to combat systemic racial discrimination prevalent at the time. This alliterative phrase has since become synonymous with policies designed to increase representation and opportunities for groups historically marginalized and discriminated against in American society.

The adoption of the term “Affirmative Action” by Hobart Taylor Jr. and its subsequent implementation through Executive Order 10925 set the stage for future legislation and policies aimed at leveling the playing field. This term has carried significant weight in debates about race, fairness, and equality in America, shaping discussions and policies for decades. Its introduction through the executive order not only solidified the government’s role in combating racial discrimination but also highlighted the ongoing struggle for civil rights in the United States during a transformative era.

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