Abigail ThernstromAbigail Thernstrom is the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She was a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York from 1993 to 2009, and a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education for more than a decade until her third term ended in November 2006. She also serves on the board of advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. She received her Ph.D. in 1975 from the Department of Government, Harvard University. 

  In 2007 she and her husband, Stephan Thernstrom, along with James Q. Wilson, Martin Feldstein, and John Bolton, were the recipients of a Bradley Foundation prizes for Outstanding Intellectual Achievement.

Thernstrom and her husband, Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, are the co-authors of No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (Simon & Schuster, October 2003), which has been awarded the 2007 Fordham Foundation prize for “for distinguished scholarship,” and was named by both the Los Angeles Times and the American School Board Journal as one of the best books of 2003.

They also collaborated on America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible (Simon & Schuster), which the New York Times Book Review, in its annual end-of-the-year issue, named as one of the notable books of 1997.

They are the editors of a Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity. Their lengthy review of William G. Bowen and Derek Bok's much-noticed work, The Shape of the River, appeared in the June 1999 issue of the UCLA Law Review.
Whose Votes Count? Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights (Harvard University Press) won four awards, including the American Bar Association's Certificate of Merit, and the Anisfield-Wolf prize for the best book on race and ethnicity. It was named the best policy studies book of that year by the Policy Studies Organization (an affiliate of the American Political Science Association), and won the Benchmark Book Award from the Center for Judicial Studies. Along with her husband, she also won the 2004 Peter Shaw Memorial Award given by National Association of Scholars.

She is currently completing a book entitled Voting Rights and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections, and is working, as well, with her husband on another book with the tentative title of Don’t Call it Segregation: The Myth of Contemporary Apartheid. She (and two co-authors) submitted an amicus brief in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle, challenging the constitutionality of Seattle's racial balancing plan.

Her frequent media appearances have included Fox News Sunday, Good Morning America, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. For some years, she was a stringer for The Economist, and continues to write for a variety of journals and newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the (London) Times Literary Supplement.

She serves on several boards, and from 1992 to 1997 was a member of the Aspen Institute's Domestic Strategy Group.


Stephan ThernstromStephan Thernstrom is the Winthrop Research Professor of History at Harvard University, where he taught American social history from 1973 to 2008. He was a member of the National Council for the Humanities from 2002 to 2008.

He was born in Port Huron, Michigan, and educated in the public schools of Port Huron and Battle Creek, Michigan. He graduated with highest honors from Northwestern University in 1956, and was awarded the Ph.D. by Harvard in 1962. He held appointments as assistant professor at Harvard, associate professor at Brandeis University, and professor at UCLA before returning to Harvard as a professor in 1973.  In 1978-1979 he was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University and Professorial Fellow at Trinity College.

Thernstrom is the editor of the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980) and the co-editor of Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity (2002) and Nineteenth-Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History (1969).  His books include Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth-Century City (1964), The Other Bostonians: Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis, 1880-1970 (1973), A History of the American People (1984), and (with his wife Abigail) America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible (1997) and No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (2003). 

His writings have been awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Harvard University Press Faculty Prize, the Waldo G. Leland Prize, the R.R. Hawkins Award, the Peter Shaw Award, the Caldwell Award, and the Fordham Foundation Prize.  In 2007, he and his wife Abigail received the Bradley Prize for Outstanding Achievement. He has held fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the John M. Olin Foundation, and research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mathematical Social Science Board, the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.  He also has written widely in periodicals for general audiences, including The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, The Public Interest, the Los Angeles Times, Commentary, and National Review.

He is currently writing a volume tentatively titled Don’t Call It Segregation: The Myth of Contemporary American Apartheid. Abigail Thernstrom will again be the co-author.

In addition, Thernstrom has served as an expert witness in more than two dozen federal cases involving claims of racial discrimination, and is the co-author of a brief in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle, challenging the constitutionality of Seattle's racial balancing plan.

For additional information, see and a longer c.v. available on request.

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