In Search of Purity; Popular Eugenics & Racial Uplift among New Negroes 1915-1935.pdf

In Search of Purity; Popular Eugenics & Racial Uplift among New Negroes 1915-1935.pdf

This preview shows page 1 out of 329 pages.

Unformatted text preview: University of Nebraska - Lincoln [email protected] of Nebraska - Lincoln Dissertations, Theses, & Student Research, Department of History History, Department of Spring 5-2014 In Search of Purity: Popular Eugenics and Racial Uplift among New Negroes 1915-1935 Shantella Y. Sherman University of Nebraska-Lincoln, [email protected] Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Cultural History Commons, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Commons, and the Intellectual History Commons Sherman, Shantella Y., "In Search of Purity: Popular Eugenics and Racial Uplift among New Negroes 1915-1935" (2014). Dissertations, Theses, & Student Research, Department of History. Paper 68. This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the History, Department of at [email protected] of Nebraska - Lincoln. It has been accepted for inclusion in Dissertations, Theses, & Student Research, Department of History by an authorized administrator of [email protected] of Nebraska - Lincoln. IN SEARCH OF PURITY: POPULAR EUGENICS AND RACIAL UPLIFT AMONG NEW NEGROES 1915-1935 By Shantella Y. Sherman A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Major: History Under the Supervision of Professor Jeannette Eileen Jones Lincoln, Nebraska May, 2014 IN SEARCH OF PURITY: POPULAR EUGENICS AND RACIAL UPLIFT AMONG NEW NEGROES 1915-1935 Shantella Yolanda Sherman, Ph.D. University of Nebraska, 2014 Adviser: Jeannette Eileen Jones “In Search of Purity: Eugenics and Racial Uplift among New Negroes, 19151935” examines the reinterpretation of eugenic theories by Black scholars, who helped integrate the science into a social movement for racial uplift. Areas of analyses include: The Talented Tenth, links between ideas about social degeneracy and physical hygiene, eugenics courses and professors at Howard University, hereditarian, and colorism. Guiding principles of African American-led eugenic theory are examined alongside the fading imagery of the Old Negro that consisted of stereotypes scattered throughout plantation fiction, blackface minstrelsy, vaudeville, and Darwinism. Specifically, terms like germ plasm (negative characteristics transmitted through genes through continual selection, unchanged, from one generation to the next) , and racial hygiene (a public health platform designed to eliminate, among other ailments, venereal disease and promote healthy reproduction within a race) are analyzed in their relation to popular discourses about Black cleanliness that included “moral fitness” and intellectual ineptness. Ideologies that intrinsically tied blackness to social degeneracy and criminality, as well as terms like full-blood and mulatto, are also examined. Links between standards of beauty, desirability, and marriage-worthiness in relation to those ideas are also critiqued. Of particular interest is the impact of racial hygiene discourses on African-American advertising through the promotion of products to lighten skin and straighten hair in order to eliminate noticeable signs of racial inferiority. iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This dissertation has been a true labor of love, inspired by an initial inquiry about concepts of racial fitness and colorism that yielded an abundance of fruit, not yet fully exhausted. I am ever grateful to my dissertation adviser, Jeannette Eileen Jones, whose scholarship and intellectual depth is matched only by her ability to encourage deeper insight, stronger command of theory, and concise explication in her students. I extend a heartfelt thank you to The University of Nebraska – Lincoln Department of History – particularly, Margaret Jacobs, who has been a true godsend during my matriculation, Dawne Curry, Carol Levine, William Thomas, and Thomas Berg – I appreciate your every effort. To my dissertation committee, Margaret Jacobs, Maureen Honey, Susan Lawrence, and Katrina Jagodinsky, thank you for your feedback and support both of which proved invaluable. I offer sincere thanks to the research staff and librarians at UNL, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the Schomburg Research Center in New York, the Eugenic Records Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center on the campus of Howard University, the Gelman Library at George Washington University, Howard University Founders Library, the Library of Congress and the Archives of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. And to my family, Lee Ross-Clark and Dr. Robert P. Edwards, III, thank you for setting lifelong examples of academic and social excellence. McKinley Clark, Henrietta Ross-Murry, every prayer was answered. Thank you. Additional thanks to Carlotta Teal, v Alisha Hetmyer, Dennis Mills, First Rising Mt. Zion (DC), New Horizons Church (Jackson) and Rankin Chapel, Pauline Andrews (The Philadelphia Tribune) and Denise Rolark Barnes and the staff of the Washington Informer newspaper. Finally, all honor to Lee Andrew Ross, Hattie Hall Ross, Clardia Ross, Percy Ross, Torcy B. Caston, Jacob Addison, Robert Boldin, and Walter Percy Mills, I know you’re watching. vi TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter One The Civilizing Process: New Negro Eugenics and Hereditarian Thought 35 Colorism and Eugenic Classification 58 Defining New Negroes by Dysgenic Behaviors 69 Chapter Two “Fewer, But Better Children” New Negro Eugenics, Black Fertility and the Birth Control Movement 85 Black Sociologists, Social Workers, and the Chicago School 91 Wayward and Incorrigible Girls 108 Birth Control and Eugenic Sterilization as Social Rehabilitation 129 Chapter Three “Creating the Colored 400: Eugenics at D.C.’s Dunbar High School and Howard University New Negro Education, White Philanthropy and Racial Uplift 154 161 Dunbar High School, Howard University and the Eugenic Double Jim Crow 175 Eugenic Instruction and Racial Hygiene at Howard University 198 Chapter Four “What the Negro Needs to Become Fit” Popular Eugenic Framing of Better Health and Beauty 225 Disease Prevention, Health Improvements and Eugenics 232 Insurance, North Carolina Mutual and Fitter Families 248 Colorism and the Negro Beauty Aesthetic 256 Conclusion: The Legacy of Popular Eugenics Among African Americans 290 Bibliography 297 vii LIST OF IMAGES W.E.B. Du Bois’ Talented Tenth 1.1 Fisk Graduating Class 1888 87 1.2 Howard University Professor Kelly Miller 87 1.3 W.E.B. Du Bois and his Family 87 Eugenic Classification 2.1 Carrie and Emma Buck 109 2.2 Davenport’s Jamaican Race Mixing Study 109 2.3 Kallikak Chart of Dysgenicism 109 Washington, D.C. Elite / Poverty 3.1 Neighborhood Outhouse 187 3.2 Migrant Children 187 3.3 Migrant Housing in Alley 188 3.4 Howard University Football Game 189 3.5 Colored 400 Children 189 North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company 4.1 North Carolina Mutual - Executives 269 4.2 North Carolina Mutual – Field Workers 269 4.3 North Carolina Mutual – “Swat the Fly” 269 4.4 Golden Brown Skin Bleach 270 4.5 Garrett A. Morgan Hair Straighteners 270 4.6 Chicago Defender “Vamp” Ad 271 1 Perhaps the most significant fact regarding the Negro people in America is the degree to which the race has undergone differentiation during the period of contact with European civilization…While the bulk of the race in America is as yet not many steps removed from the African standards…a study of the more advanced groups shows a great preponderance of individuals of mixed blood and dearth, almost an entire absence of Negroes of pure blood. E.B. Reuter (1917) There are three cardinal beliefs that may be said to control in one form or another most of the thinking about Negroes: first that they are mentally inferior; second, that they are immoral; and third, that they are criminal. – Charles S. Johnson (1923) INTRODUCTION: IN SEARCH OF PURITY In 1914 the First National Conference on Race Betterment welcomed thousands from across the United States to Michigan to promote a broader and more systemic use of state sanctioned eugenic sterilization. Defined as the science of being “well-born,” eugenics noted the “marked tendency toward the reappearance in offspring of structures, habits, features, personal mannerisms, minute physical defects, and intimate peculiarities found in their parents or more remote forebears.”1 According to eugenicists, “Negroes” constituted a dysgenic race with a potential to weaken and eventually destroy white genetic purity through miscegenation. Yet, despite this well-established maxim, a single, prominent Black attendee sat among the thousands of participants at the conference, – educator and scholar Booker T. Washington. Following his 1895 Atlanta Exposition 1 Michael F. Guyer, Being Well-Born: An Introduction to Heredity and Eugenics, (New York: BobbsMerrill Company, 1916), 1. 2 speech in which he reassured whites that emancipated blacks remained their social inferiors and continued to need paternalistic support, Washington grew in prominence among white America’s social and scientific communities. Washington understood the projected racial endgame of mainstream eugenicists – namely the extinction of the Negro and other “defective” races. In a series of articles and books written between 1904 and 1907, including The Negro in the South, The Future of the Negro Race in America, and The Negro in America, Washington and Du Bois challenged the belief that Negroes would naturally begin to die from lack of white paternalistic aid. Both Du Bois and Washington examined the theory of survival of the fittest through antagonistic and exploitative labor practices used by white landowners against black laborers. Washington posited that labor exploitation would force the Negro down until he became “thoroughly demoralized or extinct.”2 Du Bois attacked the survival of the fittest theory as manufactured by race bitterness saying: If all authority is stripped from a people, their customs interfered with, their religion laughed at, their children corrupted, and run, gambling and prostitution forced upon them – such a proceeding will undoubtedly kill them off, and kill them quickly. But that is not survival of the fittest – it is plain murder. Turning then, to the second possible future of the Negro in America—namely that he may die out – it must be candidly acknowledged that this is quite possible.3 Du Bois and Washington refuted the racial extinction of blacks as a biological and inherited given; however, as Du Bois admitted in a letter to Cornell University economics 2 Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, The Negro in the South, His Economic Progress in Relation to His Moral and Religious Development (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Company, 1907), 117. 3 W.E.B. Dub Bois, “The Future of the Negro Race in America,” The East and the West Quarterly Review 2 (January 1904):5. 3 professor W.F. Wilcox who took exception to his position on evolution given his submerged tenth writings, “I have my prejudices but they are backed by knowledge if not supported.”4 Washington’s presence at the 1914 Conference on Race Betterment signaled the effective passing of reproductive and social policing of Negroes to Negro scholars, professionals, and middle-class reformers. Washington’s participation in the conference indicated a shift in eugenic discourses that for the most part afforded a small minority of Negro intellectuals the authority to manage the racial hygiene of their own disparate populations. Eugenic thought and practice among African-Americans, however, was hardly new and appeared in pivotal works by intellectuals like William Hannibal Thomas, Kelly Miller, and W. E. B. Du Bois.5 Eugenics appealed to many New Negro intellectuals as an extension of racial uplift ideals that promoted marriage and reproduction between physically and intellectually superior members of the race. While sidestepping the racist overtones of mainline eugenic theories, New Negro eugenicists utilized variations of the language and classifications established by white eugenicists to categorize the unfit among them. What I term “New Negro eugenics” noted differences 4 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Correspondence of W.E.B. Du Bois: Selections, 1877-1934 (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1973), 75. 5 The works by William Hannibal Thomas that contain themes on eugenics and hereditarianism, include The American Negro: What He Was, What He Is, and What He May Become (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1901); Kelly Miller’s Out of the House of Bondage (New York: Neale Publishing, 1914); Race Adjustment: Essays on the Negro in America (New York: Neale Publishing, 1909); As to the Leopard’s Spots: An Open Letter to Thomas Dixon, Jr. (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1905); and “Eugenics of the Negro Race,” Scientific Monthly (1917): 57-59 offer his insights on eugenics and hereditarianism. W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro (Philadelphia: The University of Philadelphia Press, 1899); “The Social Evolution of the Black South,” American Negro Monographs1 (March): 3-12; and The American Family (Atlanta: The Atlanta University Press, 1908) are among his eugenic and hereditarian writings. 4 between inherited traits and learned behaviors dictated by environment, and used social engagement and education to transform the marginally fit into useful and progressive members of the race. Accordingly, New Negro eugenicists promoted segregation of unfit members of the race to prevent mate selection and reproduction between them and the more superior members of “the race”. Du Bois’ 1899 study of Black families The Philadelphia Negro, for instance, divided African Americans into four intra-racial categories or “grades” based on social and sexual habits. Grade 1 comprised “families of undoubted respectability,” whose livelihoods were generated by men not engaged in menial or service-related jobs and whose women and children did not work. These families were eugenically sound, having placed together a man with enough cell vitality (intellect) to work as the sole breadwinner and head of household. His wife, by remaining at home functioned solely as reproducer and caregiver of progeny. These families represented the best the race offered and symbolized Du Bois’ Talented Tenth – or the top ten percent of Negroes tasked with leading the remaining ninety percent into moral and social civility. Grade 2 comprised “respectable working-class households,” but included women working outside the home. Du Bois further distinguishes Negroes in Grade 2 from those in subsequent grades by their morality, personal cleanliness, and the appearance of their homes. Morality, personal cleanliness and appearance, while made up as social markers of respectability, also characterized eugenic markers of fitness. For instance, the eugenic category “moron” or moronia as established by social eugenicist Henry Goddard, emerged as the 5 binary opposite of normality and defined moral purity as well as mental capability. 6 Further, Du Bois’ reliance on visual representations of fitness places his ideology firmly in line with eugenicists like Goddard, whose scales of genetic fitness attributed dysgenic links to social traits, behaviors, and physical appearance. Social eugenics applied the scientific doctrine of better breeding to issues of birth control, population control, venereal disease, and sterilization through legislation, health programs, and education.7 Grade 3 included the working poor who, though honest, “with no touch of gross immorality or crime,” could not pull themselves out of poverty. It must be understood that eugenicists like Charles Davenport placed poverty or pauperism into categories of heredity in the same manner as inherent eye color or hair texture.8 Du Bois suggested the inability to progress financially and socially in Grade 3 households derived from a lack of energy and thrift, noting a eugenic connection between poverty and inherent selfdetermination, notes in The Philadelphia Negro: We must remember that all these bad habits and surroundings are not simply matters of the present generation, but that many generations of unhealthy bodies have bequeathed to the present generation impaired vitality and hereditary disease. There cannot be much doubt, when former social conditions are studied, but that hereditary disease plays a large part in the law vitality of Negroes to-day, and the health of the past has to some extent been exaggerated.9 6 Wendy Kline, Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (Berkeley: University of California, 2001), 26. 7 Alexandra Stern, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 82. 8 Charles Benedict Davenport, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1915), 80. 9 Du Bois, 162. 6 A lack of vitality in eugenic and hereditarian terms functioned as the cause for pauperism as it was defined as being willfully poor, indicating the fault for poverty to be the individual’s laziness, making pauperism a disease rather than a crime.10 Finally, Grade 4, according to Du Bois, constituted a “submerged tenth,” of the Negro population and was made up almost exclusively of the “germs of the race.” The concept of a eugenically disparate portion of society – the submerged tenth – preceded Du Bois’ grades, and was introduced by Salvation Army founder General William Booth, in In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890), in which he categorizes a “population sodden with drink, steeped in vice, ad eaten up by every social and physical malady.”11 Booth considered these people representative of an inherently dependent class beyond the reach of the nine-tenths.12 Du Bois similarly characterized his Grade 4 as prostitutes, criminals, and a willful element of degenerates, capable of outwitting both law enforcement and charitable organizations. The term submerged tenth among eugenicists like Charles Davenport identified those with an “infinite tangle of germ-plasm continually making new combinations”13 of dysgenic bodies through inheritance and cannot be separated from its remedy, namely, its eugenically effective elimination. While Du Bois’ hereditarian thought infused the potential for uplift from one grade to Amory H Bradford, “Neglected Factors in the Problem of Reform,” The Andover Review, 7, (Jan. – June 1887): 152. 11 William Booth, In Darkest England and the Way Out (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1890), 14. 12 Booth, 23. 13 Henry H. Goddard, Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness (Cold Spring Harbor, NY, 1911), 145. 10 7 another and the potential improvement of grades or stock, black eugenicists like William Hannibal Thomas did not. The work of William Hannibal Thomas, however, represents Negro eugenic thought that runs most parallel to mainstream eugenic theories. Thomas advanced the theory of “savage inheritance” that purported all pure Negro types (dark-skinned Blacks) irrespective of world geography and social environment displayed identical characteristics, which differentiated them from the total of mankind. In his 1901 work, The American Negro: What He Was, What He Is, and What He May Become – A Critical and Practical Discussion, Thomas determined that whether pure Negroes constituted an un-awakened member of the human family, a survival of an earlier type of man, or a specific type of un-durated degeneracy, they nonetheless represented modified, but “uneradicated alien blood.”14 For Thomas, who was born to free black parents in 1843, African Americans constituted an alien and diverse race of men,15 and while they had undergone a transformation from “sensuous savage animals” into rational human creatures through interbreeding under slavery, their inferior blood remained and tainted whites.16 Kelly Miller, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University made...
View Full Document

  • Spring '18
  • Professor Nicholas Gaffney, Ph.D.
  • new Negro

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

Get FREE access by uploading your study materials

Upload your study materials now and get free access to over 25 million documents.

Upload now for FREE access Or pay now for instant access
Christopher Reinemann
"Before using Course Hero my grade was at 78%. By the end of the semester my grade was at 90%. I could not have done it without all the class material I found."
— Christopher R., University of Rhode Island '15, Course Hero Intern

Ask a question for free

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern