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Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    biography of prominent activist for conservation and eugenics

    Madison Grant threw his energies equally into conservation and eugenics. He wrote the book on eugenics The Passing of the Great Race seeing the blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordic race as the top, more desirable race. He was a cofounder of the Eugenics Committee of the U.S.A. and American Eugenics Society. Grant's racial positions extended to sterilization of those he regarded as inferior races. And he worked on racial policies and practices with Southern segregationists.<BR/><BR/>Grant stood out in the field of conservation too. He was identified with Theodore Roosevelt in helping to create the country's magnificent national parks. He was a leader in zoological organizations; and he founded the Bronx Zoo. For his decisive role in preventing the complete destruction of California's giant sequoia trees, he had one species named after him.<BR/><BR/>Spiro does not try to reconcile nor rationalize these two salient interests and activities of Grant. He does not even see them as contradictory. Grant was not conflicted over his beliefs, passions, and activities. For Grant was a robust, socially active, well-to-do, well-connected individual of the latter 1800s and early 1900s in the Teddy Roosevelt mold naturally taking a lead in fields he felt strongly about and felt were beneficial for society. Like Roosevelt, he hunted big game while at the same time working toward a major zoo where animals could be preserved and appreciated by the public. The basis of his racial views was a strong America.<BR/><BR/>With the Holocaust and the coming of a racially diverse America over the decades following World War II, Grant's abhorrent racial views (pointed to by some defendants in the Nuremberg trials in support of their involvement in genocide) eclipsed his incomparable conservationist contributions so that he became identified with the former. Any interest in him thus sunk to zero.<BR/><BR/>Writing this voluminous biography on Grant going into different dimensions and influences while presenting him as a whole and understandable, though not necessarily sympathetic figure was particularly challenging for Spiro. Grant's relatives destroyed his papers when he died in 1937. Archival material in storage was ruined by a flood or carelessly thrown out. Spiro has overcome this "dearth" in the typical source material however by exhaustive reading of newspaper accounts of Grant's activities, letters of colleagues of his, and references to him in memoirs written by his contemporaries. Despite the obstacles, Spiro has written a balanced biography that portrays Grant as a prominent man of his time; which book also sheds light on controversies continuing to this day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2009

    Informative about USA History of Conservation and Extreme Prejudices

    A great nonfiction about a few very rich, powerful, well educated wanna-be blond haired, blue-eyed Nordics though most with actually brown-black mustaches (such as Madison Grant) that try to defend their "Nordic" race from "race-suicide" through utilizing successful means of their environmental conservation amidst environmental dessimation in the USA from around 1910 until after WW2. This clique reinforced their prejudices and fed off each other with their hatred of all non-Nordics to the extent they supported Marcus Garvey. Yet, they also founded many of the leading conservation areas--such as the Bronx Zoo, California Redwoods, and much more. The book is interesting because it shows the steps of how it took less than ten years to come up with a disgusting human eugenics plan in the USA to get rid of what they deemed undesirables (who they considered feebleminded, alcoholics, etc.) and that the Third Reich in Europe based its principles on Grant's prejudicial rhetoric that appeared in his books. This tragic era of eugenics in USA lasted until 1970s, according to the book. What was also interesting was the lack of ethical leadership in the USA to defend all of the people in the USA. It is not a book that makes one angry, but more aware of the denial of scholarship of other peoples by whoever may be in power and wishes to oppress. It also focuses on the lack of environmental conservation of the white immigrants in the USA during that time, and that only people such as Madison Grant seemed to care, or had the financial power to do something. I am almost done with reading it and I will read it twice. Though, I will be reading a happier book after this one. (This book caused me to remember a science show on the main TV stations here in the USA within the past two years that discussed who in antiquity had the -1 (minus 1) in their numbering systems--I recall seeing that they said the Italians/Romans did not have it, yet in Roman numerals IV is four ((five minus one)), and not to mention the number line on top and bottom of the numbers. Then, in this book, mentioned is that the Grantians state Michaelangelo was a Nordic, and they probably would have said Romans were Nordic if they came up with minus one, etc.). If this is how cliques go about trying to get their own homeland, then maybe that should be looked at too. What was most strange was the eugenics plan did not weed out those that damaged the environment probably because many of those (such as big game hunters, and factory owners) were Grant's friends also. This leaves unanswered questions about USA's growing pains and extreme prejudices.

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