IN SEARCH OF PURITY - EUGENICS 101
Eugenics, "the science of better breeding," has anchored the character of the nation almost since its inceptions. Whether informing medical communities about the predisposition of "races" of people to disease or setting legal precedents on social and racial integrity through theories of genetic fitness, eugenics has been woven into the very fabric of our nation. Still, few Americans understand the impact eugenic platforms made on the development of racial integrity laws, sterilization mandates, and the fear of "Others" in popular film, television, and advertising. In Search of Purity works to examine past eugenic theories, and their present-day remnants.
Beginning in the 1600s, scientific theories came to include both the concept of evolution -- the belief that men began as bi-pedal primates void of spirits who adapted through environmental necessity into homo sapiens, and a religious belief in the existence of Pre-Adamites (sub-human man-like species that existed before the Biblical Adam), fueled the racial construct of black skin as inferior and non-Europeans as primitive .
Whether Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney's assertion that the descendants of Africans in America represented a subhuman species who were never considered in the framing of the Constitution in the Dred Scott case (1854) or the legal sanction of forced reproductive sterilizations of "unfit" citizens, in Buck v. Bell (1927), eugenics informs many education, housing, and health policies.
Aptitude tests and physical measurements of everyday Americans grew out of reform efforts by eugenic bodies, including the Eugenics Records Office, the Race Betterment Society, and the Carnegie Institute of Washington. Exams / measurements classified citizens as either normal or dysgenic (idiot, imbecile, moron, or feeble-minded).