Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation

By John P. Jackson Jr. | Go to book overview

2
The Study of Race between
the Wars

Between World War I and World War II, anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists reconceptualized the study of race. To put the matter simply: at the end of World War I, most scientists were convinced that race was a useful scientific concept and that the races could be placed in a fairly firm racial hierarchy, with whites on top and “Negroes” on the bottom. By World War II, most scientists had abandoned these views. A strong contingent of cultural anthropologists argued that race was a useless scientific construct. Psychologists, for the most part, abandoned the notion that there were innate intellectual differences between different “races” and turned their attention to the study of “race prejudice.”

The reasons for this shift in scientific thinking are complex and a matter of some historical dispute. On the one hand, the shift in scientific thinking regarding race coincided with social changes such as American revulsion with Nazi race doctrines in the 1930s and the entry of minority group members, primarily American Jews, into social-scientific ranks, leading some historians to argue that the shift could not have been caused by new scientific data. On the other hand, other historians have found that deep scientific flaws in the older, white supremacist scientific program led to its collapse.1

In a carefully nuanced argument, Graham Richards has suggested that both accounts are correct: scientific racism’s demise can be traced back both to its scientific failings and to a changing social world. The older school of thought simply failed to provide the analytical tools necessary for it to cope with a host of new social problems in the United States. I think that Richard’s account is essentially correct, and I hope to follow his model in this chapter.2

This chapter sketches the basic contours of this shift in scientific thinking. My survey is necessarily selective and focuses on how aspects of

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Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Background 15
  • 2 - The Study of Race between the Wars 17
  • 3 - The Effect of World War II on the Study of Racial Prejudice 43
  • Part II - Forging the Alliance 61
  • 4 - The American Jewish Congress 63
  • 5 - Pre-Brown Litigation 79
  • Part III - Brown Litigation 107
  • 6 - Recruiting Expert Witnesses 109
  • 7 - Testimony of the Experts 125
  • 8 - Supreme Court Hearings and Decision, Brown I 153
  • 9 - Supreme Court Hearings and Decision, Brown II 182
  • Part IV - Dissolution 197
  • 10 - Committee of Social Science Consultants 199
  • 11 - Conclusion 213
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 285
  • About the Author 291
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