Why couldn’t Clarence Thomas get a job with a big-city law firm when he graduated from Yale in 1974? It’s not an idle question. That “time of dashed hopes and expectations,” as Thomas once described it in a speech, still leaves him bitter. His frustration resonates in the autobiography that he published last fall, “My Grandfather’s Son.”

Thomas blames Yale Law School — specifically, its affirmative action program, which sought to give up to 10 percent of first-year spots to minorities — for his difficulties securing a job as a first-year associate. Thomas has not disclosed the firms to which he applied, or how many, but he says that after applying for jobs at firms in four different cities, he was rejected everywhere.