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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Conservatives

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Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas. Courtesy of the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Despite charges of having benefitted from some of the programs he currently opposes, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas has remained a reliable member of the Court's conservative bloc since his appointment by President George H. W. Bush in 1991. Thomas's admission to Yale Law School in 1971 has been acknowledged as a product of affirmative action; paradoxically, once admitted, he came to see the initiative as patronizing and unnecessary. Raised in a strict religious household in rural Georgia, Thomas believed his growing traditionalist beliefs aligned with his upbringing, which he credits as having strengthened him against the injustices of the Jim Crow era. Thomas has credited venerable conservative black economist Thomas Sowell and his 1975 book Race and Economics with influencing his ideology, particularly in regard to limitations on the federal government's power. Despite his achievement as the second African American Supreme Court justice, Thomas has been persistently criticized by left-leaning African American opponents for ruling in favor of policies that they believe to be unfavorable to African American interests; some of these include school vouchers, unrestricted campaign financing, and the abolishment of affirmative action.

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