War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Raceby Edwin Black, Edwin R. Black
In War Against the Weak, award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black connects the crimes of the Nazis to a pseudoscientific American movement of the early 20th century called eugenics. Based on selective breeding of human beings, eugenics began in laboratories on Long Island but ended in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Cruel and racist laws were
In War Against the Weak, award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black connects the crimes of the Nazis to a pseudoscientific American movement of the early 20th century called eugenics. Based on selective breeding of human beings, eugenics began in laboratories on Long Island but ended in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Cruel and racist laws were enacted in 27 U.S. states, and the supporters of eugenics included progressive thinkers like Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Sanger, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Ultimately, over 60,000 "unfit" Americans were coercively sterilized, a third of them after Nuremberg declared such practices crimes against humanity. This is a timely and shocking chronicle of bad science at its worst — with many important lessons for the impending genetic age.
- Basic Books
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- First Trade Paper Edition
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- 6.00(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.54(d)
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War Against The Weak America has prided itself for many years as the bastion of freedom, democracy and inalienable human rights. The recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provide ample fodder to foster this image. Edwin Black gives cause to question the time-honored image. His War Against The Weak he provides the reader with shocking documented accounts of forced, legal sterilizations in most of the United States prior to World War II. As if that were not enough to tarnish the image, he informs us of a program of racial hygiene in the U.S. that was developed and supported by scientists and philanthropists and many public figures. This program, Black shows, became the blueprint for Nazi Germany¿s ideal of a ¿super race.¿ From the methodology that Edwin Black has demonstrated in his earlier works, his team of researchers has again helped him to conclusively provide support for his argument. In the minds of the American eugenists around the turn of the 20th century, the Nordic race was considered to be the ideal race. Any mixing of races was considered to be an evil to be avoided. American Nativism, reacting to the massive influx of immigrants, contributed to popular support for this view. Deeply influenced by British researchers, who coined the term ¿eugenics,¿ U.S. eugenist Charles Davenport became obsessed with racial mixture and its dangers. He felt compelled to embark upon a program of ¿redirecting human evolution¿ in order to preserve the `purity¿ of the Nordic race, and his stated goal was to develop a super race in America. He was one of the first to propose the widespread exportation of African-Americans back to Africa, with a view to purifying the racial situation in the United States. Davenport¿s program received support from many quarters, including the American Breeder¿s Association, the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, the Harriman family, President Theodore Roosevelt, Governor Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of State Knox, Alexander Graham Bell, and even Dr. Kellogg, of Battle Creek fame. At the first international conference on eugenics, held in London in 1912, Winston Churchill was in attendance. The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association hailed this conference as a triumph of Social Darwinism. In 1911, Davenport published a textbook on eugenics in which he declared that Jews were undesirable immigrants to America because they went against the ideals of community purpose. His list of undesirables did not stop with Jews, however. He also included criminals (even petty criminals), the poor, drunkards, the feebleminded, epileptics, the insane, the weak, the deformed, the handicapped (including deaf, dumb and blind people) as well as the ¿weak.¿ Not only were these American citizens considered to be undesirable, but also many people who saw a future for themselves and their families in the USA. Edwin Black expertly exposes the little secret of American immigration policy. Having captured the interest and influence of the rich and the powerful, the American eugenists sought to drastically reduce the numbers of ¿undesirables¿ seeking a new home in America. Their influence could be felt on Capitol Hill, when Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, thus imposing quotas based on national origin, with the Nordic peoples being granted the most generous quotas. This insidious application of racial and eugenic pseudo-science was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge, and, after some muted objections, implemented by President Herbert Hoover. This law governed U.S. immigration until 1952. Clearly, immigration policy was dictated not only by a Congress that kowtowed to the ¿Know Nothings¿ and other reactionaries, but most definitely by the climate of racial purity that emanated from the researchers and academicians who furthered the eugenics agenda in America. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Black¿s research is the bridge he constructs between the program of the American eugenists and th
If you read one book this year, make it 'War Against the Weak.' Its message harbors an explicit warning, based on the past, of expectations in the future. A mysterious chapter in American History is revealed: the 'eugenics' movement in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. It was a pervasive, influential, insidious and malevolent idea - that the elimination of the 'lower tenth' of the population would improve the overall human race. Who were these 'lower tenth?' Those with inherited diseases, or those who were blind, deaf, epileptic, or diabetic; those who were unemployed, alcoholic, poor, unlucky and itinerant. The people with mental problems, or physical problems, that needed to be cared for by society. The children who did not learn quickly, or who were born with disorders or from the wrong parentage - these were the despised who the arrogant eugenicists in their hubris declared 'unfit for life'. The eugenicists not only wanted the 'undesirables' sterilized, but wanted their families 'rounded up' and sterilized as well, to prevent any 'gene contamination'. The Eugenics movement began in Cold Springs Harbor, supported by an endowment from a wealthy Foundation. The pernicious eugenics ideology infected some leading charitable organizations of the day, certain factions of the government, some elements of major universities. Some highly educated and respectable intellectuals of the period subscribed to the theories of 'elimination of the lower tenth of humanity - the dregs.' What a shock to learn that Hitler used the pseudoscience and writings of the Eugenics Society in the US as his model for the 'final solution' in Nazi Germany. American Eugenicists had been barnstorming in Europe to begin eugenics movements throughout; they pointed to the Aryan prototype - blonde, blue-eyed - as the desirable genetic type to promote. This pleased the Germans and Swedes. The Germans especially imported and embraced these concepts and conceits from the American eugenicists. There were some American intellectuals and 'eugenicists' who supported the 'racial cleansing' theories put into practise by the Nazi's during the World War II (and, some of them, even after the end of the war). Some American doctors deliberately allowed infants to die; or supported a pro-euthanization stand for the elimination of the 'unfit'. One surgeon, famous for banishing 'unfit' infants untreated into the arms of death, actually starred in a Hollywood movie promoting euthanasia for 'unfit infants'. This was called the Black Stork. California lead the nation for the number of sterilizations applied to citizens! Thousands of inmates of prisons, hospitals, asylums were sterilized (mostly women) by a society that judged them unworthy of procreation. The author brings us up to the present, the Human Genome Project. Now human genes belonging to individuals are stored and archived and the information is shared and utilized by law enforcement and now commercial users such as businesses, and insurance companies. Although France has outlawed the use of genetic data banks by commercial interests, it is one of the few countries which has the foresight to have done so. The author predicts a new 'genetic underclass' who will be unemployable, uninsurable due to their potential genetic diseases or disorders. He equates this with the old eugenics movement to eliminate the undesirables from the human race to create a more 'desirable, healthy and worthy' race of human beings. Eugenics still reverberates into the 21st century, and will for years to come.