The Polygeny Theory: Louis Agassiz Essay

The Polygeny Theory: Louis Agassiz Essay

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Louis Agassiz would have agreed with the Supreme Court’s 1878 ruling in protecting segregation because he believed that races could not naturally mix. (Gould, 80) This Supreme Court ruling was involved in the case of Hall v. DeCuir, which took place during the Redemption period. (Cowan, 4) Segregation played a big role during the Redemption period because it went against what the Reconstruction Era stood for. The Reconstruction Era stood for equality and the Redemption period stood for social segregation, which is what Agassiz’s theory was all about. (Gould, 80)


Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), born in Switzerland, was a naturalist. (Gould, 74) In 1840’s, Agassiz migrated to America and became a professor at Harvard. (Gould, 75) Agassiz was an extremely successful man in the science world. (Gould, 75) As a matter of fact, he raised money to support his buildings, collections, and publications. (Gould, 75)


When Agassiz came to America, he became the leading spokesman for polygeny. (Gould, 75) The polygeny theory was actually one of the first theories of the American origin that caught the attention and respect of European scientists. (Gould, 74) This theory believes in humans being descended from different species, which means no equality can take place. (Gould, 75) Agassiz, however, did not support slavery at all. (Gould, 75)


Agassiz did not bring this theory with him from Europe. (Gould, 75) He converted to this doctrine after he had his very first experience with American black people. (Gould, 75) He had never seen a black person in Europe, so seeing a black person was an extremely alarming experience. (Gould, 75) Agassiz first met blacks at his Philadelphia hotel in 1846 and his experience was completely ...


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...nt guaranteed African Americans citizenship for blacks and overruled the Dred Scott decision. (Cowan, 4) This meant that any person that is born in America is automatically a United States citizen no matter what race, color, or gender you are. (Cowan, 4) The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed African Americans the right to vote, however, women still could not vote. (Cowan, 5) It stated that no one should be denied the right to vote because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” (Cowan, 5)

Clearly, Agassiz was wrong in his theory of polygeny. Agassiz stated that humans were descended from different species and that social equality is naturally impossible, but we have seen otherwise. We have seen public schools and public transportation and other institutions become interracial and it just simply proves Agassiz wrong.








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