Gabriel Rosenberg in Mother Jones

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Livestock breeding was a normal part of American life at the dawn of the 20th century, according to historian Gabriel Rosenberg. The United States, he told Gastropod, was "still largely a rural and agricultural society," and farm animals—and thus some more-or-less scientific forms of selective breeding—were ubiquitous in American life. 

Meanwhile, the eugenics movement was on the rise. Founded by Charles Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, eugenics held that the human race could improve itself by guided evolution—which meant that criminals, the mentally ill, and others of "inferior stock" should not be allowed to procreate and pass on their defective genes. America led the way, passing the first eugenic policies in the world. By the Second World War, 29 states had passed legislation that empowered officials to forcibly sterilize "unfit" individuals. 

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