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Eugenics in the USAEugenics, race, contamination, degeneration, prohibition, parenthood, marriage, feeble-minded, epileptic, criminal individuals, racial Identity, color, vasectomy, involuntary sterilization, Harry Laughlin, Eugenics Record Office, eugenic sterilizations

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In 1895, Connecticut became the first state in the USA to outlaw marriage between "defective" persons. Soon, forty-one other states ratified similar but the marriage laws proved difficult to enforce(1 ).

Magazines like Good Housekeeping and Popular Science Monthly ran pro eugenics stories. Pro eugenics books like "Task of Social Hygiene" (1913), "The Right to Be Well Born" (1917), and "Racial Hygiene" (1929) Had been published (2 ).

In 1898 the American Immigration Service used protocols based on race when determining who gets a Visa. In 1907 the racially based visa protocols were law. In 1911 the American Senate ratified a list of racial characteristics to obtain a visa, based on indications by the Immigration Service (3 ).

Harry Laughlin told members of the US House that "immigration into the United States is primarily a biological problem, and secondarily a problem in economics and charity." (4 ).

Professor Harvey Earnest Jordan of University of Virginia(UVA) delivered a lecture called "Eugenics: Its Data, Scope and Promise." on January 15, 1913. In this lecture he said "prevent contamination and degeneration [of the white race] by prohibition of parenthood to the ... grossly unfit." Thirteen years later, a high ranking Virginia official reiterated Jordan's premise and declared that "It is necessary for the State or Nation, by education and by law, to prevent the marriage or, illegitimate mating of feeble-minded, epileptic, criminal individuals of members of the white race with those of any other race. The preservation of the white race is a true eugenic measure."(5 ).

But this wasn't the start of America's concern over racial purity the "one-drop rule" means if a white person has one drop of black blood they are to be considered black (6 ). The one-drop rule was originally a means to expand the number of slaves. From the founding of America it was noted that some slaves were white is their masters. Other terms use to note mixed race were "mulatto", after 1890 this was broken down farther into "quadroons" or "octoroons.". these terms were dropped by the government in 1920 and they seem to go with the one-drop rule saying anyone with black ancestry was black (7 ).

This concern was also over even being married.

Virginia passed the first anti-miscegenation ( anti interracial marriage ) law in 1691 and declared the offspring it would produce were a "abominable mixture" that could be banished from the colony (8 ).

Soon these laws spread, a few examples are.

In 1872 the Alabama Supreme court ruled in Burns v. State the states anti-miscegenation law was unconstitutional. The backlash cause the court to reverse its self five years later in Green v. State (9 ).

In 1924 Virginia General Assembly passed Senate bill 219, the new law made it a felony to falsify ones racial Identity or "color" on a marriage or birth certificate. The Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics clerks were to withhold a marriage license until they proved satisfactory prove both applicants were white (10 ).


The US Supreme Court in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia wiped out the remaining anti-miscegenation laws that remained on the books in 16 states (11 ).

Back to general eugenics.

The first reported vasectomy was preformed in the United States in 1897, to treat prostatifis. It was a less extreme of treatment than Sterilization. Five years later a Surgeon promoted this as a type of eugenic sterilization. Surgeon said his patients felt and behaved better (12 ).

With what seemed like scientific and medical explanations, the promoters of Eugenics wanted to make involuntary sterilization legal. In 1910 laws had been adopted in Washington, California and Connecticut. By 1924 twenty four states had passed involuntary sterilization laws. A major force behind these laws was Harry Laughlin of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO). In 1922 he authored a involuntary sterilization that would become a model for many states ( 13 ).

An Expert in the history of Eugenics Garland E. Allen, professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, said that the estimate of 60,000 involuntary Sterilizations was accurate but he believed it "But that was probably a low estimate," and there "There could have been 100,000.", before these laws where ended (14 ).

People who supported eugenics included John D. Rockefeller,Winston Churchill, Edward Thorndike, Alexander Graham Bell, G. Stanley Hall,George Bernard Shaw, John H. Kellogg, H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, John Maynard Keynes, Margaret Sanger, and Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt said , "Some day we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world.". By January of 1935 20,000 involuntary eugenic sterilizations had taken place in the USA (15 ).

Though it had wide support among the rich and powerful, the rish and powerful rarely suffered at the hand of it. Journalist Rebecca Sinderbrand said "Over the last 15 years of its operation, 99 percent of the victims were women; [and] more than 60 percent were black" women (16 ).

The book the "Bell Curve" described Harry Laughlin "a biologist who was especially concerned about keeping up the American level of intelligence by suitable immigration policies." (17 ).

Textile magnate Wickliffe Draper was also an associate of Laughlin and key to the eugenics movement. Harry Laughlin said he was "one of the staunchest supporters of eugenical research and policy in the United States." He supported this movement until his death in 1972(18 ).

Draper was also an official Delegate of the Eugenics Research Association. Draper served on the board of the Pioneer Fund for thirty five years. This group supported the overturning of the integration case Brown v. Board of Education. It also funded research and publicity for things like "heredity and eugenics" and "the problems of race betterment" since it's inception in 1937 (19 ).

Eugenics, race, contamination, degeneration, prohibition, parenthood, marriage, feeble-minded, epileptic, criminal individuals, racial Identity, color, vasectomy, involuntary sterilization, Harry Laughlin, Eugenics Record Office, eugenic sterilizations