In June 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the commencement address at Howard University, where he said:
Freedom is not enough . . . You do not take a person, who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity.
President Johnson delivered this speech as formal discrimination came to an end in the 1960s with the passage of The Civil Rights Act and as many African-Americans were still confronted with informal and debilitating discrimination. As a result, Affirmative Action was born, giving preferences to African-Americans in higher education admissions and hiring practices, and igniting a fierce debate over the constitutionality of such policies that continues today.
Opponents of Affirmative Action argue that such consideration of race in the admission and hiring of African-Americans violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.