Edwin Black's War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

Edwin Black's War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

Length: 1983 words (5.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Edwin Black's War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

To the average American it seems unfathomable that US based research into the "scientific" practice of eugenics could have been the foundation and impetus for Hitler's Nazi genocide and atrocities. In addition, notions of racial superiority and the scientific quest for the development of a pure Aryan nation, both by the United States and foreign countries, particularly Germany, were funded and fueled by monies from such prominent families as the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Harriman's. In his book, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, author Edwin Black traces the history of the American eugenics movement, its influence on the rise to power of the Third Reich, and how it was the foundation for the development of scientific racism. Consequently, Black fears that though eugenics in the sense that we recall from the past is gone in name, the future still presents eugenic-like research under the guise of human genetic science, which once again is supported by corporate funding whose goals are more for monetary gain and globalization, rather than for the benefit of mankind.

The origins of eugenic ideology can be traced to the mid-nineteenth century when English philosopher, Herbert Spencer coined the term "survival of the fittest." Those strong and "fittest" would naturally rise to the top, for the benefit of society. Spencer, along with other leading scientists like Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel advocated the principles of the improvement of the human race based on this superiority logic; supporting their findings through the combined applications of science and mathematics. In 1865, statistician Francis J. Galton "postulated that heredity not only transmitted physical features, such as hair color and height, but mental, emotional and creative qualities as well," and so new theories were born. (Page: 15). These characteristics were more than coincidental and Galton set about classifying and categorizing thousands of people based upon his hypothesis that negative hereditary existed, and that bad traits would out weigh the good and as a result, people would spiral biologically downward. Thus the term "eugenics" was utilized as "the study of all agencies under social control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations." (Page: 18).

Using the principles expounded by Galton and through Mendel's research in laws of recessive and dominant traits discovered in plant breeding, American researchers entered this new scientific field.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Edwin Black's War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The World Of The Space Race Essay

- Initially the launch caused fear in the US, the space race was lost or as many viewed American could not overcome this insurmountable gap created by the launch of a Russian satellite. A little known fact is that while the military was developing rockets designed to launch missiles against our enemies we also intended to place a satellite into space in 1957 this was to be a civilian venture as it would conduct experiments for the International Geophysical Year (IGY). This was the first time that the US and Soviet Union would work together on an international stage....   [tags: Space exploration, NASA, Outer space]

Research Papers
730 words (2.1 pages)

The Black Codes Essays

- The Black Codes were very controversial in the North and in the South they were accepted and prominent. One reason why they were so controversial in the North was because they would try to persuade many African Americans to quit their jobs before their contracts would expire. In certain states where there were more African Americans than whites such as, Mississippi or South Carolina the Black Codes were harsher than in any other states. For example, in Mississippi a rule that if anyone without any type of job before January 1 of 1866 would be arrested if they could not pay a fee of 50 dollars....   [tags: Southern United States, American Civil War]

Research Papers
1291 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on The Black Community For Freedom For The Race

- can be identified that Morrison relates violence to oppression. In this case, he asserts that women oppress the society because they do not support its progress. In the book, women have been given the ability to amass power and threaten the authoritarianism of men. On the other hand, the story revolves around the era of civil right. People are oppressed and threatened because of what they believe during this period. It is in the same process that the woman transforms into the victim and oppressed....   [tags: Black people, Race, White people, Race]

Research Papers
1200 words (3.4 pages)

Short Story And Slave Narrative, By American Solomon Northup Essay

- This memoir and slave narrative, known as Twelve Years a Slave, touched the hearts of many and opened people’s eyes to the truth of the past. This brutal yet truthful film was written by American Solomon Northup. His story is portrayed through this film, which was edited and directed by David Wilson. Solomon Northup was born July 1808 in Minerva, New York. He grew a free black man. However, his father was once enslaved and then released upon his master’s death, and therefore this allowed Solomon and his older brother to grow up free....   [tags: Human, Race, Slavery, Race]

Research Papers
1500 words (4.3 pages)

Essay on The Problem Of Race Against African Americans

- Growing up in Clarksdale Mississippi, I see the problem of race against African Americans. When I walk down the main street of down town, I notice the unspoken boundaries that the whites have and the territory that is pushed onto the blacks. My family walks together as I see them shrug their shoulders whenever an African American walks by. The biggest issue of race I came into contact with is Betsy, our help. She comes into the house every Wednesday and Saturday to do the cleaning, ironing and whatever chores are needed around the house....   [tags: Black people, African American, Race]

Research Papers
1587 words (4.5 pages)

Essay on Race Between White And Black Students

- Race is involved in education because of teachers. In my opinion, teachers involve race in education as they deal with things in class based on their racial belief. For instance, teachers believe that there has a racial difference between white and black students as white students are smarter than Black students. Therefore, teachers usually put all white students in one group and all black students in another group. This action of teachers not only give their racial belief to all the students in class, but also leave all students with a constructed view of the world as a segregated place where whites and blacks live separately....   [tags: Black people, Race, Education, Racism]

Research Papers
1344 words (3.8 pages)

The Black Race, By Christopher Columbus Essay

- While the division of race is apparent, how is it that the issue of race has not been destroyed through the acknowledgment of class achievement. The black race has been a staggering issue that has been eating this nation internally for decades. Based upon U.S history this country’s existence was built on the discovery of this nation by Christopher Columbus, the prime elite class who migrated to this nation, and their elaborate method to operate an institutionalize method to cripple on race while building their economy....   [tags: Black people, Race, Slavery, African American]

Research Papers
930 words (2.7 pages)

Institutional Racism Against Black People Essay examples

- I have been aware of institutional racism against black people for a very long time. I have taken criminal justice classes and juvenile delinquency classes in the past; the disproportion of arrest, convictions, and sentences was discussed. I know about the mortgages, the housing, syphilis, and other terrible things this country has done to black people. The combination of my personal experience and my knowledge may be perceived, as it has been in the past, as denial of the impact of racism. I feel that underplaying other aspects, down playing the experiences of white people, and ignoring the poor white people, is actually hurtful to the overall conversation....   [tags: Race, White people, Black people, Racism]

Research Papers
1538 words (4.4 pages)

Discrimination Against A Race Working Essay

- Discrimination Against a Race Working to Better Itself In a society where a racial divide is growing more and more prominent everyday, black lives are being put into the spotlight. White people have always had the upper hand in America, but exactly how much of an upper hand do they have. It has always been apparent, since the first developed human society, that with power comes opportunity. With the lack of power and opportunity in their own right, people of color miss out on options for betterment and equality....   [tags: Racism, Race, African American, Race]

Research Papers
1854 words (5.3 pages)

Essay on Edwin Arlington Robinson’s The Mill

- Edwin Arlington Robinson’s The Mill Lucius Beebe critically analyzes Edwin Arlington Robinson’s, The Mill best. Beebe’s analysis is from an objective point of view. He points out to the reader that what seems so obvious may not be. She notes “The Mill is just a sad little tale of double suicide brought on by the encroachment of the modern world and by personal loss.” Thus meaning The Mill carries a deeper underlying theme. Lucius Beebe expresses that a minor overflow of significant details has been exposed over Edwin Arlington Robinson's "The Mill," much of it concerned with whether the miller's wife did indeed drown herself after the miller had hanged himself....   [tags: Edwin Arlington Robinson Mill Essays]

Research Papers
851 words (2.4 pages)

Related Searches

According to Black, their involvement was hardly altruistic. Fueled by fears of the insolubility of immigrants into American life, racial and ethnic hatred was born, and with it, the belief that these undesirables were polluting the gene pool. Bigotry was rampant at the turn of the century, and people believed that race mixing was bad and so an immediate reaction was deemed necessary to curtail the problem. In addition, leading American researchers could not bear the fact that the British were already conducting research and they were lagging behind.

America's eugenic movement was not only focused upon its disdain for immigrants. It also took into consideration criminality, feeble mindedness, epilepsy and other diseases as modes of hereditary deficiency and thereby needing immediate attention. It was felt those with these "problems" must be identified, separated from society and dealt with in such a manner that they would be unable to procreate and breed another generation of defectives. Eugenicists manipulated the interpretation of "science," rationalizing racism and social fears, into something legitimate and scientifically based. America found its eugenic leader in Charles Davenport, a zoologist, who believed in Mendelian principles that the superior should thrive and the unfit left to dissolve. Davenport believed that breeding would bring about an unparalleled race and advocated studying bloodlines to locate the best and the worst. In January 1904, Davenport's vision of eugenic research became a reality through the opening of The Carnegie Institution's Station for Experimental Evolution in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. The name alone gives indication of where funding would come from. Since Davenport could not support his research and field work with Carnegie grants alone, he found success soliciting A. W. Harriman's widow, Mary into being a major patron and donating the 80 acres of land where the "station" would be situated, along with a large monetary stipend.

American eugenics' initial goal was to scour mental institutions, prisons, and homes for the infirm, diseased and epileptic on the principle that these types of people were defective and should not be allowed to reproduce because the results would be the creation of more unfit people who would ultimately become a financial burden on the state. Since Davenport believed that poverty was inbred and hereditary, he advocated segregation during reproductive years, as well as the sterilization of both males and females as a method for defective bloodlines to be halted. With states like Pennsylvania and Indiana initiating sterilization of children deemed by the medical profession of unworthy for reproduction, and numerous other states following with similar proposed laws, the eugenics mentality gained a stronghold nationally. Within the next ten years according to Black, "eugenics was nothing less than an alliance between biological racism and mighty American power, position and wealth against the vulnerable, the most marginal and the least empowered in the nation. The eugenic crusaders had successfully mobilized America's strong against America's weak." (Page: 57).

Davenport alone could not sustain the tremendous amount of research, field work, and fund raising alone. In Harry Hamilton Laughlin, he found a partner to perpetuate his visions and share his quest that the "best stock" would rule the world. The men's relationship was cemented in 1909 at an American Breeders Association meeting, and within the year he was working in Cold Spring Harbor. Laughlin's job would be to run the Eugenics Record Office, analyzing family data collected by trained eugenic field workers. Together, Davenport and Laughlin found many supporters in academia. Buoyed by endorsements from Harvard, Princeton and UC Berkley, they were even able to weave eugenics into college's science curriculum, thus propagating their beliefs to future generations.

By 1916 eugenic propaganda had been spread internationally through the publication; Eugenic News. American based, it was nan active vehicle for eugenic research to be published. Articles were printed on such topics as: legislative laws on sterilization, studies and findings which expounded theories about the poor and uneducated, and stories which advocated Laughlin and Davenport's belief that only through sterilization, sweeping isolation and incarceration could the unfit disappear from American society. In addition, the periodical frequently published German generated articles claiming scientific findings of the racial inferiority of Jews. With the institutes millions supplied by the leading philanthropic families in the country, the two set their sights on a worldwide purification program of global eugenics, and thus their connection with Germany evolved. Eugenics had changed from a loosely based scientific and biological based research theory, to a racist and ruthless crusade to exterminate and affect the cessation of those they deemed unfit to reproduce.

German eugenic research had begun in the 1890's under the phraseology of "race hygiene." Firm believers in what they termed the "killing of the unfit and useless" (page: 262), according to Black, German thinkers held U.S. eugenics up as their model. It was during Adolph Hitler's incarceration in 1923 when he read American eugenic principles voraciously, that he devised his vision of building a master race. Hitler believed that all Jews should be exterminated; Poles and Russians could nexist, but only to serve Germans. Furthermore, Hitler supported America's thoughts on hybridization, where no racial mix was acceptable.

German race hygiene research was initially conducted within the auspices of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, which was started in 1922 and supplemented financially by the Rockefeller Foundation. By 1926, the Foundation had donated four million dollars for German eugenic research. During the 1920's, Davenport and other leading American eugenicist supported and even collaborated with Germany on numerous joint projects. Germany's plan was to: "identify and subject to eugenic measures every individual of mixed race everywhere." (Page: 288). In order to do so, they needed a system of collecting, filing and categorizing all collected data. The Third Reich turned to American based IBM. By January of 1934, the company had opened a one million dollar facility for the sole purpose of the data processing of eugenic information. In addition, IBM assisted the Nazi's in developing medical questionnaires; and so statistical raceology was formed. So sophisticated was their system that they were able to identify those who were even 1/16th Jewish! As the Third Reich continued to rise in power, millions of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and Slavs were imprisoned in concentration camps and subjected to experimentation under the guise of eugenic research. Members of American eugenic societies continued to support German research, visiting their facilities as late as 1937. Even more dishearteningly is the fact that Carnegie and Rockefeller dollars continued to support their research. German leaders siphoned monies that these Americans foundations had intended for "scientific research" and instead used it at their discretion for their own form of "sick" experimentation.

According to Black, popular myth says the Holocaust was the result of a mad man - but in reality it was based on the country's obsession with a eugenic vision, all the time fueled by American thought, ingenuity, research and money! (Page: 318). Throughout the thirties and the rise of Nazi Germany, American eugenics thrived. Not until 1938 when the world realized the full scope and impact of what was occurring in Germany, did the Carnegie Institute finally disengage itself. Black believes that many scientists towards the late 1930's rejected eugenics not for scientific or racist reasons, but because of the political implications of the research and its principles. Though the Eugenics Research Office stopped functioning, U.S. eugenic laws did not cease. Ironically, with all the United States had learned and seen as a result of the holocaust or what would become known as genocide, they still continued to practice eugenic behavior. Between 1900 and 1970, over 70,000 people would be sterilized, including the mentally ill, sexual deviants, criminals, and thousands of those on Indian Reservations and in U.S. territories in Puerto Rico. Racial practices and segmentation continued to be conducted in the name of science.

Eugenics according to Black easily transitioned into what today is known as genetics. His belief is that although the name may have been changed, the power that genetics exudes under the guise of DNA police data bases, medical information boards and cloning, have the potential for considerable damage to mankind. The author warns that "humanity should also be weary of a world where people are once again defined by their genetic identities. If that happens, science-based discrimination and the desire for a master race may resurrect." (Page: 428).

Though Black has a tendency towards sensationalism in his presentation, he brings to realization the significant role the American eugenics movement had in the development of race based science. Fueled by zealous men driven in the name of science based research, academically supported by scholars and most importantly financed by some of the leading philanthropists of the twentieth century, American eugenics was an idea gone out of control. Not only here in the United States, but its findings laid the groundwork for the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Frightfully he points out that practices of sterilization are still conducted in parts of the world today, and the dawn of what he calls "newgenics," could easily bring about a new kind of genetic divide, ultimately leading to the creation of a superior race or species. Furthermore, newgenics theory presents new avenues of manipulation of data for insurance companies, employers and the government to stratify and segment people based on race, class, ethnicity and economics. Black strongly advocates the need for curbing genetic social engineering, the methodology of research and its practices, and global unification to regulate the industry, in order to prevent genetic abuse.
Return to 123HelpMe.com