Eugenics: Breeding out the Blacks and White Supremacy
- 7:30 pm
22 August 2022
Online | Free
Black History Walks Queen Nzingha lecture series, welcomes Dr. Shantella Sherman who will explore the science of eugenics (‘better breeding’) and its relation to current theories about Black women’s bodies, including their character, aptitude, morality, and social fitness. The talk will also cover fashion, beauty, media and the recent Roe vs Wade ruling.
This form of pseudo-science grew out of eugenic laws that centre around race hygiene, including skin complexion and hair texture preferences, grooming, and overall deportment.
The legacy of eugenics includes colourism, body politics, and marriageability, which continue to inform how Black women and girls are viewed. Few people understand how pervasive eugenics is, or how it has been integrated into popular films and television shows.
From turn-of-the-century scholars like Robert Shufeldt who proclaimed that Black women are “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.
Register to attend here
About the Speaker: Dr Shantella Sherman
Dr. Shantella Sherman is an historian and journalist whose work documents African American history, popular culture, Women & Gender studies, Black British culture, and the American Eugenics movement. Dr. Sherman is the publisher of Acumen Magazine and a former editor with The Washington Informer and Philadelphia Tribune newspapers. Dr. Sherman is a graduate of The University of Nebraska – Lincoln and Jackson State University. She is the author of In search of Purity: Popular Eugenics and Racial Uplift amongst Negroes 1915-1935.
Image: A Eugenic and Health Exhibit at the Kansas Free Fair in 1929 (PBS/Courtesy of American Philosophical Society, American Eugenics Society Records).