The phrase affirmative action was first used by John F. Kennedy in the context of racial discrimination in 1961, however the phrase today conveys a different message then in 1961. The reason for this difference, lies in the courts. Over the past several decades the Supreme Court in particular has altered the phrase, affirmative action, through its rulings. The most famous up until recently was the 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case where racial quotas were challenged and defeated. The more recent notable affirmative action case involves the University of Michigan and its admission policies. This case brought a total of 102 legal brief filings; seventy-eight were in support of the university, nineteen opposed, and five neutral. President Bush surprisingly took a public stance against the university and instructed the solicitor general Ted Olsen to submit a brief opposing the university. On the other side of the issue, sixty-five Fortune 500 companies and twenty-nine retired general submitted briefs arguing in support of affirmative action.
In these documents the writers hoped to illustrate the importance of the affirmative action program. In the end the Supreme Court actually used these briefs in their decision. The court was given the opportunity to overturn the historic Bakke case by ruling on the Michigan case; however the justices only decided to redirect the program slightly. The amicus briefs submitted by the various individuals, groups, and corporations gave the court insight into the extent affirmative action playes in the real world.
In Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the Supreme Court began to take on the the racism in America. Ten years later Congress stepped in and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then when John F. Kennedy took office social reform was pushed further ahead on the agenda.