Abigail Thernstrom is a former a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York and the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She also serves on the board of advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and was a member of the Massachusetts state Board of Education for eleven years. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Government, Harvard University, in 1975. She is also a recipient of the prestigious 2007 Bradley Prize 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), named by both the Los Angeles Times and the American School Board Journal as one of the best books of 2003 and the winner of the 2007 Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship.
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.
Thernstrom's 1987 work, 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 new book: Voting Rightsâ€”and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections (American Enterprise Institute Press, 2009, with an introduction by Juan Williams).
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: the Center for Equal Opportunity and the Institute for Justice, among others. From 1992 to 1997 was a member of the Aspen Institute's Domestic Strategy Group.
President Clinton chose her as one of three authors to participate in his first "town meeting" on race in Akron, Ohio, on December 3, 1997, and she was part of a small group that met with the President again in the Oval Office on December 19th.