Reflections on Eugenics published Dec 12, 2019 by the Ellsworth
American re-titled to: “Hate is not Science Based”
Eugenics, meaning “well born”, is an ideology that believed that one’s
behavior is caused by genetics and that certain races have traits and
mental abilities that are particular to them. Eugenics has a history
stretching back to the late 19 th century, supposedly based upon
scientific principles. It was founded in 1883 by Francis Galton, a cousin
of Charles Darwin and assumed that white supremacy had a scientific
basis. Its promoters included Clarence Little, who in 1922 became
President of the University of Maine and had a building at the
University named for him. After leaving the University of Maine he
became a President of the University of Michigan in 1925-1929 before
founding Jackson Lab in 1929. Clarence Little became President of the
American Eugenics Society and later gained notoriety by defending
tobacco products while being the Director of the Scientific Advisory
Board for the Tobacco Industry from 1954-1969. He died in Ellsworth in
1971 at age 83. Although his name was removed from a building at the
University of Michigan it continues to arouse heated discussions as to
whether the same action should not take place at the University of
Eugenics has had a number of adherents, including many 19 th century
intellectuals, as well as racist movements sharing similar beliefs,
including the Nativism prevalent in the 1850s which tried to limit Irish
immigration following the Great Famine. More recently, debates have
been taking place on university campuses on the subject of racial
divides and whether eugenicists have any relevance since their views
were the result of an era lacking a deeper scientific understanding of
genetics. The current science behind genetic studies asserts that human
differences in intelligence are relatively minor and that all humans

share many traits in common and that differences within racial groups
are more marked than those between racial groups.
Recently written articles in the New Yorker, the NYRB and Harpers
Magazine have placed the topic of “white supremacy” in an historical
context. The New Yorker article discussed Lothrop Stoddard, Madison
Grant and W.E.B. DuBois, and noted that both Grant and Stoddard
were Harvard trained historians. Lothrop Stoddard became a
popularizer of the Nordic Theory of race superiority while Madison
Grant was known as the author of: “The Passing of the Great Race”,
published in 1916. It was soon translated into other languages and read
by the politically ambitious Adolph Hitler, who wrote Grant a letter
praising the book as “my bible”.  International Congresses on Eugenics
were widespread in the 1920s and 1930s and included Britain and Italy,
as well as Germany and the U.S. Eugenicist theories were soon applied to
immigration policies such as the 1924 Immigration Act.
which drastically limited immigration from E. Europe to the U.S. at a
time in which Jewish populations were being severely persecuted.
Eugenic science had become so pervasive that Madison Grant could
coin the term “master race” and not be disparaged for doing so. Grant
became one of the Directors of the American Eugenics Society which
encouraged sterilization as a means to control populations deemed
unsuitable. He advocated ridding society of undesirables “ who crowd
our jails, hospitals and insane asylums…”
Grant considered “tall, blond warlike Nordic people as the creators of
Western Civilization. As a regular summer visitor to Bar Harbor, he
would have known Clarence Little, who shared much in common,
including his role in the American Eugenics Movement. This was also
true of Lothrop Stoddard whose 1920 book: The Rising Tide of Color
Against White World-Supremacy
had an introduction by Madison
Grant and was frequently quoted by President Warren Harding as well
as praised by the NY Times.
In a debate in 1929, mentioned in the New Yorker article, Stoddard and
DuBois addressed the question: “Should the Negro Be Encouraged to
Seek Cultural Equality?”
Stoddard’s position was that mulattoes were
the cause of social unrest since they exhibited the dangers of “mongrel
races”. But W.E.B. DuBois’ eloquence won the day in a packed hall with
3000 or more in attendance. DuBois argued that cultural equality
should be encouraged, not feared”. He stated: “Nordics are not a
chosen people…There is no scientific proof that Nordics had larger
brains or that modern culture was derived from them”. He continued:
the Nordic program was, in fact, “the subjection and ruler-ship of the
world for their own benefit. In actuality they “brought exploitation,
slavery and degradation to the majority of men…What black, brown
and yellow people want is to have the barriers to equal citizenship torn
In a very recently published book: "Skin Deep”, Gavin Evans explored
the deep-seated ideas concerning “biological determinism” (ie racist
science) and showed how it has been appropriated by those who
believed there were fundamental differences between races. Evans
pointed out, based on IQ tests of immigrants in the 1920s, that many
immigrants were considered “morons”, but IQ tests, as Evans
maintained were: “nothing other than a measure of the potentiality for
technical prowess”. Two generations later those immigrant
descendants had a higher than average IQ score.
Gavin Evans pointed out that racist science is still with us in its attempts
to prove that some racial groups are more intelligent than others.
Eugenicist beliefs do not stand up under close scrutiny despite white
supremacists continuing to echo century old views. With genetic facts
at our disposal we are now able to examine motives that underlie the
eugenics movement and gain insight into attitudes and policies that
have promoted racial abuses of the past and continue to pervade our
political discourses.
Although white supremacy is masked in slogans and clichés in current

political and media rhetoric, it has been more crudely displayed by groups such
as the KKK and the white nationalists of current times. The underlying
attitudes continue to give rise to distorted beliefs that encourage mass
shootings in schools, churches, synagogues, and mosques. Those who
are deeply alienated from feelings of empathy for others have brought
about appalling levels of suffering to schools and communities
throughout the nation, and continue to exacerbate pervasive fears in
our gun-obsessed society.

Hugh J. Curran teaches in Peace & Reconciliation Studies at the University of Maine
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