This article examines affirmative action as an element of transitional justice by studying the experiences of South Africa and the United States. In fixing their gaze on a limited set of measures such as truth and reconciliation commissions and criminal prosecutions, transitional justice scholars have largely overlooked the role that affirmative action plays in facilitating transition. At the same time, affirmative action scholars have often neglected the ways in which transitional dynamics shape legal and political debates over affirmative action. This article addresses these shortcomings in two primary ways. First, it brings affirmative action and transitional justice scholarship into conversation to show how fundamental insights from transitional justice apply in the context of affirmative action, and how affirmative action sheds light on transitional debates and dilemmas. Second, the project compares the evolving struggle over affirmative action in two countries seeking racial transition.