Eugenics History Essay Assignment

Instructions: Write a 3-4 page essay that answers the prompt below. Your paper should be double spaced, and in Times New Roman, size 12 font.

Eugenics, or the belief in the improvement of the human race through selective breeding, played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States prior to WWII. Based on pseudo science, tens of thousands of Americans were forcibly sterilized during those years and well into the 1970s. Using your textbook and at least five of the primary sources below (or six sources total) answer the following question: Despite early criticism, what contributed to the rise of the eugenics movement during the first decades of the twentieth century?

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Hint: To answer this question, you will need to to consider who supported the movement, how propaganda was disseminated, the language used, widespread concerns with immigration and urbanization, the Progressive movement itself, etc. Select two or three elements that you find most significant in the rise of eugenics, name them in your thesis statement, and expand on them in the body of your paper. IMPORTANT: This paper should not be about your agreement or disagreement with eugenics. It should focus on the historical conditions that enabled the spread of these ideas and the practice of forced sterilization in the United States.

Primary sources

For eugenics:

Robert Rentoul, Proposed Sterilization of Certain Mental and Physical Degenerates: An Appeal to Asylum Managers and Others (1903) 
G. Stanley Hall, “Eugenics as a New Creed (1911) 
Anonymous, “Pastors for Eugenics” (1913) 
William J. Robinson, Eugenics, Marriage and Birth Control (Practical Eugenics) (1917) 
Kelly Miller, “Eugenics of the Negro Race” (1917) 
(Links to an external site.)Buck v. Bell (1927) 
“The Civilizing Force of Birth Control”: Margaret Sanger Becomes a Moderate (1929) 
Harry Laughlin, The Legal Status of Eugenical Sterilization (1930)

Some criticisms of eugenics:

Veto of Pennsylvania Eugenics Law by Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker (1905) 
Franz Boas, “The Instability of Human Types” (1911) 
Judgement on Eugenics Law – Supreme Court of the State of Indiana (1920) 
Walter Lippman, “The Mental Age of Americans” (1922) 
Clarence Darrow, “The Eugenics Cult” (1926)Preview the document 

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