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Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South Paperback – September 30, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Before Summer for the Gods, his Pulitzer-winning history of the Scopes trial, Edward J. Larson wrote this incisive history of eugenics--the study of hereditary improvement of the human race through selective breeding--in the American South of the early 20th century.

Although Southerners were hardly the only people preoccupied with sex and race, their response to eugenic theories was recongizably distinctive in its enthusiasm. Larson provides a detailed analysis of the various state laws and public policies--and the forces behind their implementation. As he demonstrates, Southern eugenics was not merely a matter of preventing the "white race" from being "tainted" by African-American blood; great concern also existed regarding the widespread reproduction of the "unfit" (physically and mentally disabled), with sterilization frequently proposed as a solution. With his concise prose style, Larson makes this broad topic, which has continued relevance as our medical and genetic technologies become more and more refined, accessible to the general reader. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


In prose as lean as it is graceful, historian Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia provides in this work a highly illuminating account of the eugenics movement in Georgia and the five other deep South states (Alabama, Florida, Lousiana, Missippi, and South Carolina).

(Williard B. Gatewood Georgia Historical Quarterly)

Edward Larson's study of the eugenic's movement in the Deep South is the most comprehensive examination to date of how eugenic science transplanted into social policy.

(Molly Ladd-Taylor Journal of Southern History)

Larson's book will take its place beside Jim Jone's ground-breaking Bad Blood , the history of the Tuskegee syphillis experiment, as an example of how well-intentioned, progressive, scientistis and 'reformers' can misuse medicine. It is a model of thorough scholarship, creative analysis, and graceful writing, and it is as non-polemical as a book can be on such a disturbing subject.

(Wayne Flynt Florida Historical Quarterly)

Larson's thoughtful analysis of issues involved when the state intervenes in the reproductive decisions of its citizens is both timely and persuasive.

(Susan E. Lederer Journal of American History)

Larson's book, the first tp focus particularily on the South, is also the first to provide a sustained view of eugenics policy-making. Larson discusses the source of eugenic ideas, the processes by which eugenicists lobbied for the laws, and the content of eugenics legislation. He also assseses the effects of such laws and factors that led to their eventual repeal. This study should stimulate and guide similar investigations of eugenics policy in other parts of the country.

(Nicole Hahn Rafter History of Education Quarterly)

Physicians and historians will be richly rewarded by reading Larson's account of this region's eugenic practices and his admirable restraint from bootless moralizing. His values-respect for human rights and equality-are clearly stated in the last section, but his restraint in the text prods readers to draw their own conclusions.

(John C. Fletcher New England Journal of Medicine)

An excellent book. Clearly conceived, very well organized, impressively researched, and nicely written, it adds a significant new chapter to the literature on the history of the eugenics movement in America. While previous scholarship sketched out the broad ideological contours of the movement, Larson focuses on the actual policymaking implications of this ideology.

(Leila Zenderland, California State University, Fullerton)

Analyzing eugenic reforms in the context of state policies, Larson's detailed and interesting study suggests that the [eugenics] movement did not necessarily follow the same pattern throughout the United States, but rather reflected the culture and history of particular regions.. His concerns are particularly salient these days when books like The Bell Curve are claiming that science supports concerns about the risk of degeneracy and the threats posed by 'dysgenic practices.'.

(Dorothy Nelken Journal of the American Medical Association)

Required reading for all policy-makers called upon to tackle the complex issues integral to the applications of genetics to humans.

(Willard B. Gatewood Georgia Historical Quarterly)

Sex, Race and Science is meticulously researched. It will undoubtedly be seen as the major resource on the history of involuntary sterilization laws in this region for a long time.

(Philip Reilly Medical Humanities Review)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (September 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080185511X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801855115
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward J. Larson is the author of seven books and the recipient of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History for his book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. His other books include Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory; Evolution's Workshop; God and Science on the Galapagos Islands; and Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution. Larson has also written over one hundred articles, most of which address topics of law, science, or politics from an historical perspective, which have appeared in such varied journals as The Atlantic, Nature, Scientific American, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, and Virginia Law Review. He is a professor of history and law at Pepperdine University and lives in Georgia and California.

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Emond on March 13, 2013
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This book tells the story of how it was in the south before the blacks were given the representation they deserved.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Prophetess12 on September 22, 2014
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not impressed
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