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Title page for ETD etd-04092013-223607

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Chresfield, Michell
Author's Email Address michell.chresfield@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04092013-223607
Title Improve the race: eugenics as a strategy for racial uplift, 1900-1940
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Sarah Igo Committee Chair
Anastasia Curwood Committee Member
  • eugenics
  • racial uplift
  • jim crow
Date of Defense 2012-12-15
Availability unrestricted
This study examines how African American intellectuals, many of them participants in the racial uplift movement, utilized the ideas of the eugenics movement as a strategy for the social, biological, and political improvement of African Americans. Focusing on the first five decades of the twentieth century, my thesis examines eugenic theories present in scientific, social, and popular discourses targeted towards African Americans. I argue that while the inflection of scientific racism in eugenics deterred some African Americans from adopting its themes, eugenics’ promotion of increased reproduction amongst the better segments of society meshed well with racial uplift’s commitment to social advancement. This study adds to previous scholarship on the eugenics movement, which has tended to focus exclusively on African Americans as subjects of eugenic initiatives. The result is a reconsideration of eugenics that includes a more diverse set of voices than previously appreciated, and also illustrates that African American leaders borrowed from and adapted eugenic philosophies to fit their goals.
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