Black eugenics and the politics of reproduction – Ayah Nuriddin (Princeton University)

January 25, 2022 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Salim Al-Gailani

During the early twentieth century, African Americans of varying social strata began to embrace the racial possibilities of eugenics. In response to a prevalent narrative of black victimization in the historiography of eugenics, I argue that they mobilized what I call black eugenics, which I define as a hereditarian approach to racial uplift that emphasized social reform, public health, and reproductive control as strategies of biological racial improvement.

Black eugenics emerged from a longer tradition of black political organizing for racial equality and the beginnings of black engagement with medicine and science as a result of greater educational opportunities after Reconstruction. Black eugenics allowed African Americans to challenge assumptions about the inferiority of black bodies. They used targeted reproduction and public health programs in response to the medical problems that were used to justify racial discrimination. Using African American newspapers, medical journals, and archival material, this talk will show the ways in which that African Americans respond to, reinterpret, and critique the scientific racism embedded within the eugenics movement as part of a larger discourse of black eugenics.

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