All I want to say is this: Did you know that from 1930-1960 in America, 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under state-sanctioned programs? Theres one final question: did you know from 2006-2010 in California, 148 mentally ill women were sterilized by state mental hospitals without their consent?
It is difficult to read this book and not think. So, how does War Against the Weak stand up as a book on this particular period? Among the many works on this subject that I have read, Mr. Blacks book seems to me to be the definitive study. (Or did it?) For me, this extensive information, this lush garden of facts, was precisely what I wanted in a manuscript. Is it the only book you should read on the subject? No. One must read many books on a subject in order to get a full picture.
Black details the frightening and unfamiliar story of American (that's right, American) eugenics. Black shows that this was not the stuff of some deranged fringe: eugenics was borne of our highest institutions of learning and given ultimate justification by our highest levels of government (judicial, executive, and legislative). In 1934 The Richmond Times Dispatch quoted a prominent American eugenicist as saying "The German's are beating us at our own game." They called it "applied biology." Some of the more chilling quotes collected in this book: "I agree with you...that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind...Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type." (President Theodore Roosevelt, 1913) "Had Jesus been among us, he would have been president of the First Eugenic Congress." (Dr. Albert Wiggam, member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) Lessons we ought to learn from this book: 1. Beware of "applied science" in the moral sphere. The eugenics movement was designed by our most powerful and supposedly "wise" institutions: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, the American Medical Association, the American Museum of Natural History, the US State Department, etc. Early genetic screening is officially advocated by the American College of Obstretrics and Gynecologists with the idea that "unfit" fetuses will be terminated, not treated.
While the Nazis took eugenics to a whole 'nother level, the US eugenics movement is a well-hidden secret that more people should learn about.
Indeed, in this book Black convincingly argues that the 'science' of eugenics was founded in America and later transplanted to Germany. Whilst America never went as far as involuntary euthanasia, many states (over half) did implement laws legislating for involuntary sterilization, marriage restrictions, segregation, immigration restrictions - all designed to prevent those deemed inferior - whether because of intelligence levels, race, religion, hereditary illness or even alcoholism - from breeding and therefore perpetuating and spreading their 'defects' through the body public. Many states took decades after WW2 to repeal their eugenics and miscegenation legislation, and some states continued to perform compulsory sterilization.
(in particular, margeret sanger as a proponent of eugenics.
Edwin Black, journalist and non-fiction author, has not simply written a book about eugenics as most people know it, but has researched and written a book about eugenics uncovering their deep roots in North American culture. The authors premise is that notions and strategies for eugenics were made manifest in the United States first before being spread to Nazi Germany, a theory that has received some criticism, and, no doubt, will make many Americans very uneasy. There are some notable flaws in Blacks book, starting with his assertion on page 27 that Some of the best people come from the worst homes, and some of the worst people come from the best homes. The purpose of the book was to convince the reader of the validity and true of the authors thesis, and thoroughness is the best means to achieve this. As a Canadian, I was aware that eugenics was promoted by means of sterilization legislation in Alberta, but the book compelled me to look a little deeper into this murky aspect of Canadian history. Starting on page 423, Black quotes a series of rationalizations, allowances, and revisionism of earlier American eugenic and eugenicists that geneticist, Sheldon Reed makes in 1961! The preference for Nordic features noted on page 29 and in particular with the quote on page 30 that brunette hair constitutes an ancestral stigmata for promoting a non-Nordic bloodline strongly suggests that mainstream cultures long-time preference for tall, blonde females (i.e. gentlemen prefer blondes) is a hold over of the kind of racism inherent in eugenics. Fortunately, people like Gene Roddenberry and Edwin Black still exist to remind and caution us via our culture desire for purposeful, provoking narrative (even if it doesnt feel so with the dreck that passes itself off as television these days).
There is a considerable amount of time spent defining the impact that eugenics had on social policy, and a bit too much speculation presented as fact about Hitler's specific and personal interest in the subject. This wasn't really the significant issue I had with the second section, I had a harder time with the disjointed sequencing of the description of peoples and events. Also, several times there are references to world conferences or local conferences on Eugenics in the pre-war and early-war period (early 1920s through late 1930s) that often get described in the context of the subject the author is focusing on and not in the sequence of the conferences themselves. The author presents his position rather clearly, but for those of us who have faced genetic issues in our own children, made tragic and heart-wrenching decisions about life and death, the last section is neither comforting nor condemning.
In this book, Black presents scrupulously documented history of the eugenics movement in America. I was stunned to find that it was to America that Nazi Germany sent leaders of their eugenics movement to in order to find out how our legislation was working and how the public perceived it. In Part II of his book entitled "Eugenicide", Black details how the American eugenics movement supported Hitler's regime and their move to rid their country of "defective" elements. Black tells how eugenicists came together to "rename" their movement to the familiar area of research we call "genetics".