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Argues that the prevailing pessimism on the status of African-Americans and the state of race relations is not justified by the facts, which show that the lives of most African-Americans have improved over the past five decades, and advocates doing away with affirmative action and similar policies. Analyzes historical developments in race relations that climaxed in the 1960s, contending that substantial progress was made before the civil rights movement, and discusses recent statistics on poverty, education, crime, and jobs. For general readers. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or. Written by a pair of social scientists--Stephan Thernstrom is a professor of history at Harvard; his wife, Abigail, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute--America in Black and White is a comprehensive look at how much life has changed (and remained the same) for black Americans. The authors conclude that, while much remains to be done, life has gotten measurably better for blacks since the civil rights movement. For example, only a quarter of black families live below the poverty line, as compared with more than three-quarters of black families in 1940; similarly, where 60 percent of working black women were domestics in 1940, today a majority are white-collar workers. In what will likely prove to be the most controversial of their conclusions, the authors argue that, while many problems remain, traditional civil rights remedies, such as affirmative action and racial preferences, will not solve those problems.