In the spirit of the time, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 called for nondiscrimination for American citizens, seeking equality without regard for race, color, or creed. After the mid-1960s, to make amends for wrongs of the past, some people called for benign discrimination to give blacks a special boost. In business and government this could be accomplished through racial preferences or quotas; in public education, by considering race when assigning students to schools. By 1980 this course reached a crossroads.

Raymond Wolters maintains that Ronald Reagan and William Bradford Reynolds made the "right turn" when they questioned and limited the use of racial considerations in drawing electoral boundaries. He also documents the Reagan administration's considerable success in reinforcing within the country, and reviving within the judiciary, the conviction that every person black or white should be considered an individual with unique talents and inalienable rights.

This book begins with a biographical chapter on William Bradford Reynolds, the Assistant Attorney General who was the principal architect of Reagan's civil rights policies. It then analyzes three main civil rights issues: voting rights, affirmative action, and school desegregation. Wolters describes specific cases: at-large elections and minority vote dilutions; congressional districting in New Orleans; legislative districting in North Carolina; the debates over the Civil Rights Act of 1964; social science critiques of affirmative action; the question of quotas; and school desegregation and forced busing.

Because Ronald Reagan and William Bradford Reynolds were men of the right, and because most journalists and historians are on the left, Wolters feels the "people of words" have dealt harshly with the Reagan administration. In writing this book, he hopes to correct the record on a subject that has been badly represented. Wolters points out that, beginning in the 1980s and continuing in the 1990s, the Supreme Court endorsed the legal arguments that Reagan's lawyers developed in the fields of voting rights, affirmative action, and school desegregation. In Right Turn, Wolters responds to those who claimed that Reagan and Reynolds were racists who wanted to turn back the clock on civil rights, and he describes civil rights cases and controversies in a way that is comprehensible to general readers as well as to lawyers and historians.

chapter |20 pages


part I|120 pages

Voting Rights

chapter |2 pages

Introduction to Part I

chapter 1|14 pages


chapter 3|16 pages

The Debate Over the Revised Section 2

chapter 5|18 pages

Congressional Districting in New Orleans

chapter 6|20 pages

Legislative Districting in North Carolina

chapter 7|8 pages

Conclusion to Part I

part II|162 pages

Affirmative Action

chapter |2 pages

Introduction to Part II

chapter 8|24 pages

The Civil Rights Act, 1964

chapter 11|16 pages

False Dawn

chapter 12|24 pages

The Nadir

chapter 13|20 pages


chapter 14|14 pages

Conclusion to Part II

part III|162 pages

School Desegregation

chapter |2 pages

Introduction to Part III

chapter 15|28 pages

From Brown to Busing

chapter 17|18 pages

Breaking Away

chapter 18|24 pages

Shaping a New Policy

chapter 19|26 pages

Gold Plated Desegregation

chapter 20|28 pages

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

chapter 21|6 pages

Conclusion to Part III