Eugenics and White Supremacy, Breeding out the Blacks

Monday 22nd August 6.30pm

Lecture on the link between eugenics and the control of Black women’s bodies. Dr Sherman is the author of ‘In Search of Purity’.

In our 107th Queen Nzingha lecture, Dr. Shantella Sherman will explore the science of eugenics and its relation to current theories about Black women’s bodies, including their character, aptitude, morality, and social fitness. We will also link to fashion, beauty and media and Roe vs Wade.

While eugenics has been officially set aside as a pseudo-science, its popular legacy, which includes colourism, body politics, and marriageability, continue to inform how Black women and girls are viewed nearly 150 years later. Few people understand how pervasive eugenics is, or how it has been integrated into popular films and television series for decades.

From the lament of turn-of-the-century scholars like Robert Shufeldt who proclaimed the Black woman “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. Eugenics, the “science of better breeding,” has dictated the sexual and social practices of Americans for more than 100 years — it affects social constructs and preferences that grew out of eugenic laws that centre around race hygiene, including skin complexion and hair texture preferences, grooming, and overall deportment.

This is an online lecture via Zoom. Link will be supplied via registration.

About the Nzingha lecture series: Queen Nzinga was an African Queen who fought against the European invasion of southern Africa (Congo/Angola). The Queen Nzinga lecture series feature African female academics / holders of expert knowledge, speaking on topics of their choice. The Nzinga lecture series provide a regular platform for women of African descent to highlight important issues in an academic setting.

Other coming events from :

  • African Women Resistance Leaders: Political and Spiritual (online course)
  • Black History River Cruise
  • Black history bus tour
  • African Superheroes Day @phoenixcinema
  • Harlem in Mayfair Black history walk
  • Walter Rodney a new perspective
  • Andromeda, Queen of Sheba and Black women in European art
  • Special screening of Marikana massacre at BFI Southbank
  • Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s, Hackney, Soho, Notting Hill
  • Pilots of the Caribbean and the Tuskeegee airmen
  • How to rip off Black historians a tale of copying and greed in London
  • Kenya’s racist history a Black judge speaks

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 which is available online.

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