America’s Hidden History: the Eugenics Movement

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The Eugenics Crusade tells the story of America’s journey to breed healthy babies to create the perfect human in the 19th century. Eugenics was proposed as a scientific solution for social problems. Eugenics movement was about having healthy babies and a stronger society (2:48- 2:52). Charles believed that evolution was the natural process that was leading to the survival of the fittest (5:56). The term “eugenics” was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a British cousin to Charles Darwin, a science in which human beings take charge of their own evolution as the natural selection wasn’t effective enough. It was believed that selective breeding could transform the human race and needed to be proven scientifically. 

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In 1910, Charles shifted his observation on hereditary to human beings, he investigated the human traits and how favorable traits can be passed down for a better economy. It was shown that certain traits passed down can be halted if reduction was controlled. On October 1910, Davenport established the eugenics record office to guide the nation’s reproductive choices. After it was established, it was recommended that those with the “so-called bad genes” to be segregated during their reproductive years or sterilized to prevent them from spreading their bad genes. The goal of the movement was to put an end to social ills by reducing the number of those considered to be genetically unfit or inherited bad genes which included the poor, anyone with any form of disability, immigrants, jews, or any behavior like a criminal activity in any member of their family. It was seen as a way to liberate America as a whole. John Harvey Kellog believed that the key to reforming society is to cleanse ourselves by what we eat and take into the body. He also believed that the environment can affect the genes because some genes are triggered by certain environmental factors. 

The Race Betterment Foundation was founded in 1911 by John Harvey Kellog. It had the medical instruments used to gauge human biological capacity and a wall of chart that outline the importance of eugenics to the human race. The Panama pacific expo was a defining moment in the eugenics movement as it gave people a perspective to view the world. Eugenics classified those below the social norms as morons and it created a hierarchy that made some believe they were superior. The coming of other races into America was seen as a genetic threat which led to the passing of the immigration restriction legislation in 1924 and forbade the marriages between blacks and whites. Eugenics was the mainstream popular culture in the 1920s. The 1930s was the peak of Eugenics which was due to the great depression. By the end of the 1940s, Eugenics was longer the way of American lives and by the end of the 1970s, the total number of sterilization exceeded 60,000. This video shows how easy it is to use fear of ‘the other’ to bring about the most inhumane treatment of human beings. In my opinion, the use of eugenics is humane. Human beings should not be judged or isolated because of situations they cannot control like their race or disability, or condemned based on their social or economic status. I felt like the great depression was good in a way as it helped put the so-called superior in the shoes of the “genetically unfit” cause they had to go through the same treatment because of the economic crash which questioned the purposes on eugenics. 

Although the eugenics was cruel, its origin brought some great discoveries that are implemented today. It was based on the laws of evolutions and the passage of genes from parents to offsprings. It talks about how traits are being passed and also how traits can skip certain generations to later come up in a different generation. This is possible because a gene can be recessive or dominant (module material genetics.doc pg 4). A gene dominant in a generation can become recessive in another. With the use of the mendelian ratio, it shows how certain genes that give rise to physical traits are passed down to the generations. I am really surprised by the problems of society where being approached with the use of eugenics to determine who is genetically fit or not as it had no equality and had no criteria for selecting the best features because they were dictated by the elites (1:29:06). 

Certain behaviors or activities like alcoholism or increase in crime rate are due to the personal background and has nothing to do with the genetic makeup of the individual. I have never had any experiences of being put down because of something relating to my background but it’s common for people to be judged because of where they come from or their ethnic background and therefore viewed as inferior by society. Morgan proved that genes live in chromosomes and therefore travel in packs and can’t just be eliminated (42:00) “two chromosomes that make up the pairs may give different instructions to the body about how to produce that trait. The particular members of the pairs that get put into the eggs or sperms, and the particular sperm cell that ends up meeting the egg, thereby producing the offspring, is a random occurrence (or controlled by luck/Fate/Mother Nature/Divinity, depending on what you believe)” (module material genetics.doc pg 4) making it difficult to determine the offsprings which is why the use of eugenics is inhumane.

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America's Hidden History: The Eugenics Movement. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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