Eugenics in the law, your food and movies

Tuesday 23rd May 6.30pm

Second talk by Dr Shantella Sherman on the link between eugenics, prisons, certain foods, popular culture, TV and movies. Plus Q&A

‘Eugenics is the scientifically erroneous and immoral theory of “racial improvement” and “planned breeding,” which gained popularity during the early 20th century. Eugenicists worldwide believed that they could perfect human beings and eliminate so-called social ills through genetics and heredity.’

Eugenics positioned Black people as natural breeders of poverty, crime, mental and intellectual weakness, and national impurity. The term was discredited after World War Two because of the Nazi outrages but the ideology has been making a steady comeback. For example:

  • In California prisons Black women were told to go for ‘check ups’ only to later discover they had been sterilised. See the 2021 PBS documentary ‘Belly of the Beast’
  • In return for early release ,some US prisons offer hysterectomies or vasectomies.
  • In 2017 a eugenics conference was held in secret at University College London and attended by high profile educators like Toby Young, who later resigned from the Fulbright Commission and other posts.
  • Eugenics is obviously featured in media like; Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Elysium, What Happened to Monday ,The Divergent series, Star Trek into Darkness and Orphan Black, but it also pops up less blatantly in films like Attack the Block which is set in a London council estate.
  • In 2023 there is a new group of eugenicists which seeks to include Black academics in its ranks.

Dr Sherman will share her latest research into these areas and detail what its like to be a Black woman in a eugenics space.

This is a physical event in real life please check your travel arrangements in advance.

Other coming events from :

  • African Women Resistance Leaders: Political and Spiritual (online course)
  • Black History River Cruise
  • Black history Bus tour
  • African Superheroes Day
  • Harlem in Mayfair Black history walk
  • Dr Cecil Belfield Clarke a new perspective
  • Andromeda, Queen of Sheba and Black women in European art
  • Special screening of Brazil Abolition at BFI Southbank
  • Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s, Theatreland, Hackney, Soho, Notting Hill
  • Pirates and the Bank of England
  • How to rip off Black historians a tale of copying and greed in London

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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