Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

War against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

War against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

Article excerpt

War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black. Four Walls Eight Windows, September 2003. $27

There are a lot of ugly stories in the creation of America. The eugenics campaign has got to rank among the ugliest. As the 2oth century began, the idea was around in some educated circles that the "pure" Nordic "race" could be improved by controlled breeding of "superior" individuals and by eliminating "inferior" individuals through "segregation, deportation, castration, marriage prohibition, compulsory sterilization, passive euthanasia-and ultimately extermination."

Based on extremely tenuous notions of how genetics worked in humans, supported and funded by the fortunes of John D. Rockefeller, E.H. Harriman, and Andrew Carnegie, and carried out by dedicated zealots, the campaign began at the Carnegie Institution's experimental station at Cold Spring Harbor, New York. The widow of E. H. Harriman provided the money to set up the Eugenics Record Office nearby, which would undertake the gathering of records (confidential and otherwise) from insane asylums, prisons, homes for the deaf and blind, hospitals and almshouses, and many other facilities. …

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