Eugenics: Breeding out the Blacks. Nzingha lecture No. 37

Thursday 18th October 2018, 6:45 PM – 9:15 PM @ Christopher Ingold Auditorium XLG2, 20 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AJ

Dr. Shantella Sherman will explore the science of eugenics and its relation to current theories about black women’s bodies, including their character, aptitude, morality, and social fitness. While eugenics has been officially set aside as a pseudo-science, its popular legacy, which includes colourism, body politics, and marriageability, continue to inform how Black women and girls are viewed nearly 150 years later. Few people understand how pervasive eugenics is, or how it has been integrated into popular films and television series for decades.

From the lament of turn-of-the-century scholars like Robert Shufeldt who proclaimed the Black woman “naturally immoral, immodest, and primed for carnal intercourse before reaching puberty,” to the purity myths documented by present-day researchers that render Black women genetically incapable of being proper wives, mothers, and citizens — Black women have become the standard-bearers of dysgenicism.

Eugenics positioned Black women as natural breeders of poverty, crime, mental and intellectual weakness, and national impurity. This lecture uncovers the roots of Black dysgenicism within biological theories of savage inheritance, criminality, sexual deviance, and disease that now saturate American popular culture in news broadcasts, film, music, and television.

Eugenics, the “science of better breeding,” has dictated the sexual and social practices of Americans for more than 100 years — it affects social constructs and preferences that grew out of eugenic laws that centre around race hygiene, including skin complexion and hair texture preferences, grooming, and overall deportment.

Admission to this event is FREE.