Abigail Thernstrom passed away late last week. She was a friend; a longtime board member of the Center for Equal Opportunity, where I work; and an invaluable expert on a wide variety of racial and civil-rights issues.
Although Abby did not begin her life, education, and career in circles friendly to conservatism (to understate the matter), that’s where her intellectual honesty and her courage led her, and she became a star in the conservative firmament.
She and her husband Stephan were frequent coauthors, and in 2007 shared the prestigious Bradley Foundation Prize for their outstanding intellectual achievement. Their books together included America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible and No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. Her own works included Whose Votes Count?: Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights and Voting Rights — and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections. Abby and Stephan also co-edited yet another book, Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America. Their and her books were award-winning; their and her shorter pieces, in newspapers and journals of all sorts, are innumerable.
In addition to being on the boards of the Center for Equal Opportunity and the Institute for Justice, Abby’s career included service as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under former president George W. Bush and as a member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, as well as being an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Quite a career, and quite a lady, one whose warmth, energy, humor, intelligence, and willingness to be out of step will be greatly missed.