Abstract: The Virtue of Corporate Citizenship: Equal Employment Opportunity Activism of American Business Elites in the 1960s

Johannes Steffens


The Plans for Progress (PfP) program of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (PCEEO) represented an important milestone in the establishment and dissemination of EEO standards in the private sector. Between 1961 and 1969, 450 large corporations signed PfP agreements with the federal government, pledging to voluntarily implement or enhance their EEO practices. Civil rights groups, liberal politicians, and newspapers derided PfP as ineffective and tokenism. Scholars have either ignored PfP or reiterated the contemporary criticisms. Based on extensive archival research, this paper will critically examine the tangible and intangible achievements of PfP, its limitations and failures, and the multifaceted interrelations between business and government in the area of civil rights in the 1960s. I argue that PfP systematized voluntary EEO practices, led to significant progress in minority employment, facilitated the acceptance of EEO laws by the private sector, and established corporate EEO standards for decades to come.