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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Relevant and Passionate History,
This review is from: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Hardcover)Paul A. Lombardo's history of Buck v. Bell, Three Generations, No Imbeciles, is a terrific telling of case of Carrie Buck, a young woman sterilized by Virginia in 1927 in order to prevent her from having more "socially inadequate" offspring.
In 1924, supporters of a statute known as the Virginia Sterilization Act challenged the very law they helped author in hopes of gaining legal cover for their eugenic efforts. They claimed that reproduction among the "feebleminded" was a proximate threat to the body social. According to the "expert" brought in by counsel to defend the Act, Buck was the daughter of a feebleminded woman, was feebleminded herself, and had demonstrated that she was a danger to the community by bearing an illegitimate feebleminded daughter.
The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In its 8-1 affirmation, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously opined, "Three generations of imbeciles is enough."
Lombardo presents documentary proof that Carrie Buck and her daughter were perfectly normal, perhaps even a bit above average, and that the 1924 proceedings which led to the Supreme Court's review were a sham, with prosecution and defense attorneys colluding to produce the desired outcome. Adding insult, Buck's daughter, the birth of whom signaled to many that Carrie was genetically predisposed to promiscuity, was the product of an incestuous rape.
But Lombardo's story is about much more than a poor court decision.
Lombardo tells a crackling tale, and tells it so passionately and so well that one barely notices that this is not a popularization or polemic, but a thoroughly documented work of history. His first 4 chapters are intended to serve mostly as a set up his central story of the legal history of eugenic laws in the United States. But in these 57 or so short pages, Lombardo contextualizes the cultural, political and scientific landscape that conditioned the passing and implementation of these laws better than any history I have yet read.
The author demonstrates a clear mastery of his material in the way he is able to pull quotes from an incredibly wide range of published sources and personal correspondence to create a novelistic narrative that never strays into territory not mapped by solid primary sources.
Lombardo challenges us to see Buck v. Bell not as miscarriage of justice committed in service to a since discredited "science," but as a still relevant example of the dangers of rationalizing broad exceptions to personal liberty based on "emergency" conditions.
Carrie Buck's "socially inadequate" baby was seen as a part of an invisible and fast moving invasion. It, along with foreign germs, foreign ideas and foreigners were proximate threats to the body politic which demanded expert extra-legal action lest the battle be lost before the country's slow moving constitutional system got around to okaying any action.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking,
This review is from: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Hardcover)Paul A. Lombardo's recently published book, "Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell" is a poignant retelling of the court decisions regarding the forced sterilization of a young woman named Carrie Buck. Although written objectively, Lombardo's heart comes through, making the book readable for even a law novice. The book was easily comprehensible. Credit Lombardo's masterful ability to reiterate facts at just the right moment with keeping the reader on track in understanding the key people, issues, and details.
The subject is heart breaking. Lombardo's persistence in getting this story out with painstaking attention to the groundwork is moving. By the time the first trial occurs in the book, the reader has ample information to know what all principals knew and to see clearly the miscarriage of justice.
No one can ask for more from a serious book than that it enlightens and makes one think. "Three Generations No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell" does both. I hope there will be other books from Paul A. Lombardo that perform the same services.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Generations, No Imbeciles,
This review is from: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Hardcover)Professor Lombardo has done a great service in exposing one of the vilest decisions the Supreme Court has ever made. His is the third book I have read on Buck v. Bell (as well as many articles)and it is by far the best. He has thoroughly researched all aspects of the case and has provided a well written, easy to read history of the eugenics movement in America. At times the book reads like a novel rather than a historic account. Lomabardo develops personalities like a fiction writer yet maintains scholarly history accuracy. This book should be required reading in every high school in America.
Roger Paull, Glendale, AZ
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HITLER'S HENCHMEN CITED OUR SUPREME COURT AS JUSTIFICATION FOR THEIR ACTS,
This review is from: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Paperback)The full contents of this book should be required reading in every college and university in the United States. However, in my opinion, the most important piece of information in this book does not come until Pg. 239, when Paul Lombardo provides the reader with the revelation that the 1927 Buck v. Bell opinion was entered as evidence in the defense of Hitler's henchmen in order to prove that the U.S. Supreme Court had deemed eugenic sterilization legal. Eugenics was the core concept of Hitler's regime. Eugenic considerations were used to decide even which works of art were to be accepted by the Third Reich, which books, and just about every other aspect of Hitler's domestic policy. Thus, providing proof that eugenics was an accepted science by the U.S. government was a strong defense for the National Socialists on trial at Nuremberg.
In these last pages, Paul Lombardo also explains that one of the top German scientists that was primarily responsible for the Third Reich's various eugenic programs was captured by the U.S. Army and the released when he conveyed extensive knowledge of the eugenics movement inside of the U.S.. Ernst Rudin was that man, and he was no ordinary National Socialist. Rudin was one of the men that Joseph Mengele answered to in the National Socialist hierarchy. Rudin was let go because he would have exposed the large amount of collaboration that America's top scientists and their respective universities and institutions gave German eugenicists.
Clearly my preference is to tell the reader why the book is so critically important at the beginning, in order to set up why the history of this crucial 1927 Supreme Court case is so important. Regardless of my personal preference, Paul Lombardo's book is incredibly important, not just for the above stated reasons but also because of the history of that pivotal 1927 case which Paul Lombardo exposes.
Most importantly, the events documented in this book are still relevant today. Just this week we learned that several doctors in Los Angeles, California sterilized over 150 women against their will citing eugenic considerations as their justifications for doing so. Clearly, this is a history is a history that still needs to be told.
The reality is that eugenics was a British and American export to Germany, and not the other way around. Hitler's henchmen were helped by American Progressives whom were enamored with the prospect of controlling the "quality" of the population by giving government with the power a horse breeder has over his livestock. If you need more evidence consult Stefan Kuhl's The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism. I used Professor Lombardo's book as part of the research for my own book on the history of the international eugenics movement, and found myself quoting him often. I still find myself consulting this book as I work on my second work on the subject.
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying, but interesting,
This review is from: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Kindle Edition)Well-written book about a tough subject. Heartbreaking at times. It's scary to think how this happened in the US, and not even that long ago.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell,
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Draw Your Own Conclusions,
This review is from: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Paperback)While this book was fascinating, I recommend reading it in tandem withBreeding Contempt: The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States for a wider perspective of the subject. I found this work was impressively written, but became frustrated near the end by the propensity of author's personal bias in favor of several sterilized individuals to eclipse other relevant factors from the discussion.
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Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and <I>Buck v. Bell</I> by Paul A. Lombardo (Paperback - August 31, 2010)