This timeline gives an overview of scientific racism throughout the world, placing the Eugenics Record Office within a broader historical framework extending from Enlightenment-Era Europe to present-day social thought.
Explore the most comprehensive digital archive of the American eugenics movement, compiled under an initiative led by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories.
Eugenics: Compulsory Sterilization in 50 American States
Lutz Kaelber at the University of Vermont has compiled a set of statistics and resources related to the history compulsory eugenic sterilization in every American state, tracing the legal battles of sterilization laws that would lead to the sterilization of over 60,000 individuals.
The Lynchburg Story: Eugenic Sterilization in America
This documentary tells the story of The Lynchburg Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded in Virginia, where 8,000 children and teens were forcibly sterilized between 1927 and 1972. Here, Carrie Buck was sterilized after the Supreme Court ruled eugenic sterilization constitutional in the 1927 Buck v. Bell case.
Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold
A chilling documentary explores the 1912 eviction of a mixed-race community living on an island off the coast of Maine. Motivated by racism, eugenics, and political retribution, the state of Maine erased the Malaga community, sending eight islanders to a Maine institution for the “feebleminded,” and leaving the rest to survive on the mainland.
Medicine After the Holocaust
The Center for Medicine After the Holocaust works to challenge doctors, nurses, and bioscientists to personally confront the medical ethics of the Holocaust and apply that knowledge to contemporary practice and research, and to tell the often obscured history of American compliance and support for German eugenics on the part of countless American eugenicists, physicians, philanthropists, and politicians in the 1920s and 1930s.
No Más Bebés (No More Babies)
This forthcoming documentary, directed by Renee Tajima-Peña, explores the stories of immigrant mothers who sued county doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were coerced into sterilizations while giving birth at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and 70s. Led by an intrepid, 26-year-old Chicana lawyer and armed with hospital records secretly gathered by a whistle-blowing young doctor, the mothers faced public exposure and stood up to powerful institutions in the name of justice.
An extended brochure from the 2001 International Center of Photography exhibit explores how photography – as in Galton’s development of composite portraiture – was used as “evidence” for eugenic ideas of hereditary and racial superiority.
The Quinacrine Report: Sterilization, Modern Day Eugenics, and the Anti-Immigrant Movement
A report from the Center for New Community uncovers the disturbing links between modern day far-right interest groups and the leaders of the pre-WWII American eugenics movement.
Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement
A fantastic curricular resource for teachers looking to incorporate critical perspectives on eugenics history into the classroom. A project of Facing History and Ourselves.
The Social Welfare History Project is a wonderful resource collecting information about the history of American social welfare as it relates to disability, poverty, immigration, and beyond. Take a look in particular at their historical resources on individuals with intellectual disabilities, which includes materials illustrating how American psychologists, social workers, and the general population understood “idiots” and the “feebleminded” during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Faculty and students at University College London reckon with the legacy of Francis Galton, UCL professor and founder of eugenics in this incredible video piece.
Vermont Eugenics: A Documentary History
A comprehensive, critical history of Vermont’s role in the American eugenics movement.
Archival Collections and Initiatives
Carnegie Institution of Washington Eugenics Record Office Collection, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.
Harry H. Laughlin Papers, Pickler Memorial Library at Truman State University, Kirksville, MO.
Margaret Sanger Papers Project, Division of Libraries, New York University.
Allen, Garland E. “The Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, 1910–1940: An Essay in Institutional History.” Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 2, 1986.
Bashford, Alison and Levine, Philippa. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Burke, Chloe S and Castaneda, Christopher J. The Public and Private History of Eugenics [Special issue]. The Public Historian, 29:3 (2007).
Browne, Simone. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Duke University Press, 2015.
Carey, Allison C. “The Feebleminded versus the Nation.” In On the Margins of Citizenship: Intellectual Disability and Civil Rights in Twentieth-Century America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009.
Duster, Troy. Backdoor to Eugenics. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Goldsmith, Meredith. “White Skin, White Mask: Passing, Posing, and Performing in The Great Gatsby.” Modern Fiction Studies, Fall 2003.
Gonzales, Angela, Kertész, Judy, and Tayac, Gabrielle. “Eugenics as Indian Removal: Sociohistorical Processes and the De(con)struction of American Indians in the Southeast.” The Public Historian 29 (2007): 53-67.
Gould, Stephen Jay. Mismeasure of Man (second edition). W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
Hansen, Randall and Desmond King. “Welfare, African Americans, and Coerced Sterilization.” In Sterilized by the State: Eugenics, Race, and the Population Scare in Twentieth-Century North America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013
Leonard, Thomas C. Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era.
Lombardo, Paul A., ed. A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011.
Murdoch, Stephen. IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea. Wiley, 2007. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
Nelkin, Dorothy. “The Revival of Eugenics in American Popular Culture.” Journal of the American Women’s Association 52 (1997): 45.
O’Brien, Gerald V. Framing the Moron: The Social Construction of Feeble-Mindedness in the American Eugenic Era. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2013.
Ordover, N. American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Rafter, Nicole Hahn. Creating Born Criminals. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
Roberts, Dorothy. Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century. New York: The New Press, 2011.
Sekula, Allan. “The Body and the Archive.” October 39 (1986): 3–64.
Spiro, Jonathan Peter. Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Press, 2009.
Torpy, Sally J. “Native American Women and Coerced Sterilization: On the Trail of Tears in the 1970s.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 24:2 (2000): 1-22.
Turda, Marius. Modernism and Eugenics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.