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Meet the man behind the Harvard admissions lawsuit

Edward Blum is president of Students for Fair Admissions.
Reuters/File 2012
Edward Blum is president of Students for Fair Admissions.

Edward Blum, the man behind the lawsuit alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants, has encouraged or personally filed some of the most influential affirmative-action cases in recent decades.

Blum has become the face of the effort to end racial considerations in education admissions. A self-described former college liberal, according to media reports, Blum says that over time he came to believe that race-based policies violate the very principles of equality they were created to uphold.

He is president of Students for Fair Admissions, the activist group suing Harvard in a case that is likely to go to trial this fall and may ultimately be decided by the US Supreme Court. Hundreds of pages of legal documents were unsealed Friday about the college’s admissions process.

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Blum, 66, is linked to another landmark case, Fisher v. University of Texas, which he lost in 2016 when the US Supreme Court upheld the school’s method for considering race in admissions.

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Despite his various legal projects, Blum is not a lawyer, but a financial analyst by trade. He lives in Maine and has been enlisting plaintiffs or suing with Students for Fair Admissions, an offshoot of the Project on Fair Representation, to end affirmative action and other practices he sees as racially biased.

The Project on Fair Representation, of which Blum is also director, is a legal activism group whose website calls for an end to race-based affirmative action in college admissions and K-12 school assignments.

“Most Americans don’t want race to be part of your application to college,” he said told The New York Times. “They don’t want the police to use race as a profiling tool to prevent crime. They don’t want prosecutors to use race in the makeup of a jury. Your race and your ethnicity should not be something used to help you or harm you in your life’s endeavors.”

Blum and his projects received almost $2.9 million from DonorsTrust — which gives money from conservative donors to a number of causes — and affiliated nonprofits between 2010 and 2015, according to the Times.

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In addition to his crusade against affirmative action, Blum has also worked to overturn gerrymandered districts that favor racial minority candidates. This arose out of his own failed bid for Congress in Houston in 1992, when he eventually successfully sued Texas in Bush v. Vera for racially gerrymandering districts.

Blum eventually went on to challenge the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a provision that required cities with a history of voter discrimination to get federal approval to change voting laws.

Material from Reuters was included in this report. Jamie Halper can be reached at jamie.halper@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.