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Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

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President Ronald Reagan making a speech, 1980s.

Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular politicians in recent history, embodied the American conservative movement of the late 20th century. However, many people found his conservative ideals directly opposed to programs that benefited minority groups.

As governor of California (1967-1975), Reagan clashed with activists like the Black Panthers in Oakland, and encouraged the firing of University of California professor Angela Davis. In the presidential campaign of 1980, he invoked "states' rights" which some heard as a code phrase for racism. As America's 40th president (1981-1989), he tried to eliminate the Department of Education and cut back on loan and assistance programs that helped underprivileged students get a leg up. Throughout his political career, Reagan undercut anti-poverty programs and urban assistance while cutting taxes, widening the gap between rich and poor. In support of business, his administration failed to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act, which outlaws racial discrimination in home loans, and made many federal contractors exempt from Affirmative Action programs.

However, during his presidency, Ronald Reagan signed the bill that declared the third Monday in January a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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