Eugenics in the US
The US’ Surprising Eugenics Program Revealed
2011 October 31
When most people think of eugenics, the practice of “improving” the hereditary qualities of a race by controlled, selective breeding, they think of Nazi Germany and their attempts to exterminate certain ethnic groups.
But not only did the practice begin long before World War II, and end much later, it also was not confined to Nazi Germany.
In fact, eugenics was widely practiced in many countries, including in the United States as recently as the 1980s.
“The concept of eugenics was created in the late 1800s by British scientist Sir Francis Galton. The mindset at that time was to use genetic selection used in breeding thoroughbreds and other animals to create a class of people who were free of inferior traits. Indiana became the first state in the nation to pass a eugenics law in 1907.”
In 1927, a landmark Supreme Court case known as Buck v. Bell gave further fuel to the eugenics movement, as the court actually ruled that the state of Virginia could legally sterilize teenager Carrie Buck, who had been sent to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded because her foster parents deemed her a moral delinquent. It was following this ruling that the eugenics movement really took off in the United States.
Most U.S. States Had Sterilization Programs
In all, 33 states operated sterilization programs during the 20th century, at first targeting mostly people in mental institutions. As the years went by, the definition of what was “unfit to procreate” expanded to include not only the mentally ill but also: