War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

by Edwin Black (Author)

Editorial Reviews

The plans of Adolf Hitler and the German Nazis to create a Nordic "master race"
are often looked upon as a horrific but fairly isolated effort. Less notice has
historically been given to the American eugenics movement of the 19th and early
20th centuries. Although their methods were less violent, the methodology and
rationale which the American eugenicists employed, as catalogued in Edwin
Black's Against the Weak, were chilling nonetheless and, in fact, influential in
the mindset of Hitler himself. Funded and supported by several well-known
wealthy donors, including the Rockefeller and Carnegie families and Alexander
Graham Bell, the eugenicists believed that the physically impaired and
"feeble-minded" should be subject to forced sterilization in order to create a
stronger species and incur less social spending. These "defective" humans
generally ended up being poorer folks who were sometimes categorized as such
after shockingly arbitrary or capricious means ! such as failing a quiz related
to pop culture by not knowing where the Pierce Arrow was manufactured. The list
of groups and agencies conducting eugenics research was long, from the U.S. Army
and the Departments of Labor and Agriculture to organizations with names like
the "American Breeders Association." Black's detailed research into the history
of the American eugenics movement is admirably extensive, but it is in the
association between the beliefs of some members of the American aristocracy and
Hitler that the book becomes most chilling. Black goes on to trace the evolution
of eugenic thinking as it evolves into what is now called genetics. And while
modern thinkers have thankfully discarded the pseudo-science of eugenics, such
controversial modern issues as human cloning make one wonder how our own era
will be remembered a hundred years hence.

From Publishers Weekly
In the first half of the 20th century, more than 60,000 Americans-poor,
uneducated, members of minorities-were forcibly sterilized to prevent them from
passing on supposedly defective genes. This policy, called eugenics, was the
brainchild of such influential people as Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie and
Margaret Sanger. Black, author of the bestselling IBM and the Holocaust, set out
to show "the sad truth of how the scientific rationales that drove killer
doctors at Auschwitz were first concocted on Long Island" at the Carnegie
Institution's Cold Spring Harbor complex. Along the way, he offers a detailed
and heavily footnoted history that traces eugenics from its inception to
America's eventual, post-WWII retreat from it, complete with stories of the
people behind it, their legal battles, their detractors and the tragic stories
of their victims. Black's team of 50 researchers have done an impressive job,
and the resulting story is at once shocking and gripping. But the publisher's
claim that Black has uncovered the truth behind America's "dirty little secret"
is a bit overstated. There is a growing library of books on eugenics, including
Daniel Kevles's In the Name of Eugenics and Ellen Chesler's biography of
Margaret Sanger, Woman of Valor. Black's writing tends to fluctuate from
scholarly to melodramatic and apocalyptic (and sometimes arrogant), but the end
result is an important book that will add to the public's understanding of this
critical chapter of American history.

Product Details

Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press; Reprint edition (September 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1568583214



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