[Paleopsych] Galileo's Heirs: The Scientific Defense of Segregation, 1954-1967
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Tue Jun 14 01:13:27 UTC 2005
Galileo's Heirs: The Scientific Defense of Segregation, 1954-1967
[If you back up the directory tree, you'll see the book is in press. Amazon
does not stock it as of right now, though. I wonder how much *positive*,
data-driven evidence FOR racial equality the author cites. Thanks to Sarah for
The Scientific Defense of Segregation, 1954-1967
Book Proposal Accepted by New York University Press
John P. Jackson, Jr.
I. Book Proposal.
I am a historian interested in the how the cultural
authority of science has been used in American history to support
various positions on race relations. In my most recently completed
project I investigated social psychologist Kenneth B. Clark and his
colleagues' involvement in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of
Education which declared segregation unconstitutional. I now propose
a historical examination of a group of scientists who used their
scientific expertise in an attempt to overturn Brown v. Board of
Education. In a series of court cases in the early 1960s these
scientists testified that African American children were biologically
and psychologically inferior to white children and therefore
segregation should continue. I am in a unique position to study these
segregationist scientists, since they faced many of the same issues
that Clark and his colleagues faced in the Brown case.
B. Description of the Study.
1. The Context.
Walter Jackson has called the scientific community in
the two decades following World War II a "liberal orthodoxy" regarding
race relations (Jackson, 1990). The prevailing scientific belief
during these two decades was that there were no significant
differences in intelligence or character among the various races.
Indeed, many anthropologists, biologists, psychologists, and
sociologists argued that the entire concept of "race" should be
scrapped as scientifically worthless.
A small minority of scientists, whom I call the
"segregationist scientists", disagreed with the egalitarian view of
the majority. Members of this group were bound together by a concern
that the scientific truth of racial differences was being smothered by
the unscientific propaganda of racial equality.
Segregationist scientists argued that the
psychological and biological differences between the white and black
races had profound implications for social policy, especially
regarding school integration. School integration would corrupt white
children by forcing them into a degraded environment. Moreover,
integration would psychologically hurt African American children by
forcing them into day-to-day contact with white children, with whom
they could not possibly compete. Segregation, however, protected both
white and black children from the malevolent influences of interracial
contact. These scientists testified on behalf of segregation in a
number of Federal court cases in the early 1960s. In these cases many
of the segregationist scientists proclaimed, as anatomist Wesley C.
George of the University of North Carolina had soon after the Brown
decision "we cannot consider the Negro to be genetically acceptable,"
therefore, "it is of fundamental importance that we shall maintain
racial separateness in the social sphere" (George, 1954, 13).
2. A Scientific Community.
Segregationist scientists had their own professional
organization, the International Society for the Advancement of
Ethnology and Eugenics (IAAEE), founded in Washington DC 1959. The
expressed function of the IAAEE was to objectively investigate racial
differences and publicize their findings.
Although it claimed to be primarily a scientific
organization, the IAAEE was composed of a group of social conservative
thinkers and writers, most of who had scientific training. Within the
United States there were three basic groups within the IAAEE.
The first group in the IAAEE was composed of an older
generation of southern scientists who had grown up under segregation.
These men were born in the late nineteenth century or the first two
decades of the twentieth century. A good example of this group was
psychologist Henry E. Garrett, one of three scientists who testified
in favor of segregation during the Brown litigation. Garrett was on
the faculty of Columbia University for decades before retiring in 1956
and assuming a position in his home state at the University of
Virginia. Also in this group was anatomist Wesley C. George, who had
been on the faculty of the University of North Carolina Medical School
since 1919. For this group, having grown up in the South during the
height of Jim Crow, the dismantling of segregation represented the
dismantling of their culture. They were fully prepared to use their
scientific expertise to defend the old order.
The second group represented in the IAAEE were much
younger individuals who were neo-Fascist sympathizers closely
associated with neo-Nazi Willis Carto and his organization, the
Liberty Lobby. For example, economist Donald Swan, an openly declared
Fascist, served as the executive secretary of the IAAEE during the
time under study. Biologist Robert E. Kuttner, in addition to
publishing extensively in biochemistry journals (Kuttner, Sims, and
Gordon, 1961; Kuttner and Wagreich, 1953) also provided scientific
proof of white superiority before Congress as a representative of the
Liberty Lobby, had published extensively in extremist journals such as
The Truth Seeker, Northern World, and Western Destiny (Kuttner, 1956;
1958). In these publications, Kuttner held forth against the Jewish
domination of the western world and championed the Nordic as the true
representative of the white race.
The final group within the IAAEE was a group I have
chosen to call the "idiosyncratic conservatives". Ernst van den Haag,
psychoanalyst and social philosopher, was one of the earliest critics
of the use of social science in Brown. Van den Haag served on the
executive committee of the IAAEE for a number of years and testified
on behalf of segregation in three different court cases. A. James
Gregor, another social philosopher, published widely within the social
science literature criticizing Brown, publishing psychological studies
with psychologists R. Travis Osborne and Stanley Porteus, and writing
highly theoretical articles on racial thought. These writers rejected
the notion that African Americans were biologically inferior to white
Americans and instead based their arguments for segregation on notions
of group identity. These arguments will be explored in more detail
3. The Equalitarian Conspiracy.
Although members differed on a number of points, a
central point of the IAAEE agenda was to debunk the "equalitarian
dogma" of modern anthropology. According to the IAAEE line, Franz
Boas and his students, the "equalitarians," had substituted their
political and religious belief in racial equality for hard scientific
evidence when they proclaimed the races equal. The equalitarians had
infiltrated the scientific establishment and through political
pressure had successfully suppressed the truth about racial
differences in a host of disciplines. The equalitarians controlled
hiring and tenure decisions of all major universities and the
publication boards of major scientific publishers. The equalitarians
quickly and severely punished any "objective" scientists who dared
reveal that the races were fundamentally unequal. In this way, the
equalitarians perpetuated what Henry Garrett described as "the
scientific hoax of the century" (1961, 484).
According to the IAAEE scientists, in the Brown school
desegregation case the equalitarians had actually had their scientific
hoax written into constitutional law. In Brown the Supreme Court had
found that segregation psychologically damaged school children, citing
the work of Kenneth B. Clark and other social scientists who had
worked with the NAACP (Jackson, 1997). After Brown, IAAEE scientists
took to print arguing that Clark and his colleagues had misled the
court about racial differences (Gregor, 1963; van den Haag, 1960).
Segregationist scientists' critique of Brown meshed
with positions argued by the South's political leadership. Like the
members of the IAAEE, Southern leaders had excoriated the substitution
of "socialistic" social scientists for case precedent in the Brown
decision. For white southern leadership, the citation of social
scientific evidence was just one more reason to despise the Brown
decision (Bloch, 1958).
However, the citation of social scientific evidence in Brown also
provided a method for the South to overturn the decision. The South
believed that Brown turned on a "finding of fact" rather than a
"finding of law". Because Brown relied on the "factual" grounds of
racial equality it southern leaders believed they could show Brown's
facts to be in error. Charles Bloch, a Georgia attorney and arch
critic of Brown wrote that, "It can be shown that in our society of
1959...these findings and factual conclusions [in Brown] are erroneous
and have no place" (Bloch, 1959, 138). If the South could demonstrate
in court that science actually proved the inequality of the races,
then segregation would be justified, by Brown's own logic.
Southerners wanting to use scientific facts to
overturn Brown and scientists eager to supply those facts were brought
together by Carleton Putnam; a retired airline executive turned
segregationist pamphleteer. In his writings, Putnam put forth the
case against the equalitarian dogma and what he saw as the scientific
truth of African American inferiority (1961; 1967). Putnam was a
founding member of the IAAEE and had extensive ties to the Citizen
Councils and southern political culture. Through his efforts,
southern lawyers brought four separate Federal Court cases to overturn
Brown on the basis of expert scientific testimony of IAAEE
4. Scientific Arguments for Segregation.
In these cases, segregationists scientists drew upon
their writings to argue that there were three main sources of
scientific support for segregation. The most fundamental argument was
based on the evidence provided by psychological tests of intelligence.
a. Group differences in intelligence.
One thing that all IAAEE members agreed upon was that psychological
tests had proven that African Americans simply were not as innately
intelligent as white Americans were. For the most part, this argument
was based, not on original research, but on surveys of the results of
IQ tests. The "bible" for the IAAEE was The Testing of Negro
Intelligence, a massive book of intelligence test results compiled by
Audrey Shuey, a doctoral student of Garrett's while he was at Columbia
(Shuey, 1958). The sheer mass of studies, IAAEE scientists argued,
must prove that the gap in IQ between whites and blacks could not be
due to environmental differences. Psychologist Frank C.J. McGurk, who
carefully assembled studies in which he claimed environmental
backgrounds were equalized and yet whites continually outperformed
blacks (McGurk 1959; 1967), advanced a similar argument.
In addition to the compilations of other studies,
IAAEE members also undertook original research designed to show high
heritability for intelligence For example, A. James Gregor, who was a
colleague of Stanley Porteus at the University of Hawaii, administered
the Porteus Maze Test in Australia to test "native" intelligence of
the aboriginal population (Gregor and McPherson, 1963). Gregor also
undertook a series of intelligence studies with psychologist R. Travis
Osborne of the University or Georgia (Osborne and Gregor, 1966;
Osborne and Gregor, 1968; Osborne, Gregor, and Miele, 1967; Osborne,
Gregor, and Miele, 1968).
The IQ argument served two purposes for the IAAEE in a
court of law. First, it was an attempt to establish that race was a
"reasonable" classification under the law for the purposes of
educational policy. That is to say, given the wide differences in
intelligence between the two races, it was a reasonable use of state
power to require segregated schooling because the curriculum of each
school system could be adjusted to the level needed for each race.
A second use of the IQ argument in court was an attempt to show that
integration would damage white children. Brown¸ it could be argued,
was based on the "psychological damage" inflicted on minority
children. The IQ argument could turn the tables on the
integrationists because African American children simply were not as
smart as white children hence school integration would lead to a
"dumbed down" curriculum denying white children of a proper education
(Garrett, 1962; McGurk, 1959; Osborne, 1960).
The IQ argument however, was not enough to clinch the cases for the
IAAEE. The problem lay within the overlap between white and black
tests scores. A large overlap between the two populations, even
granting that the mean of the scores of the black population was
equivalent to the value of one standard deviation below the mean of
the scores of the white population. IAAEE knew the NAACP would argue
as it did during the Brown case, that while the differences in IQ
scores might justify educational tracking by test scores, they did not
justify segregation by race. The NAACP would simply argue that the
court should group the smart children, regardless of race, and the
slower children, regardless of race. What was needed was some
argument to add to the IQ argument that would guarantee that race
would be the relevant factor for the courts.
Finding the argument that would make race a relevant factor for the
court caused widespread disagreement within the segregationist
scientific community. In the end, they settled on two approaches:
first, a biological argument that relied on essential differences
between the races; second, a psychological argument that assumed no
essential differences. Each of these will be examined in turn.
b. Biological differences between the races.
There were two arguments for significant biological differences
between the races. First, anatomist Wesley C. George argued that the
brain structure of African Americans was significantly different than
the brains of white Americans. According to George, not only did
whites have, on average, larger brains, but also the fissures in the
gray matter of the brain were significantly deeper in the white
brain. Moreover, the differences in fissuration were in the frontal
lobes of the brain, those areas most responsible for forethought and
higher planning.These differences in brain structure were, George
argued, immune from environmental influences and were almost wholly
genetic in origin.
The difference in neuroanatomy between white and black brains allowed
George and Carleton Putnam (who was enormously impressed with George's
argument) to go beyond mere differences in intelligence and argue that
African Americans lacked the "capacity for civilization" found in
white Americans. African Americans were physiologically incapable of
achieving white standards in behavior and decorum. George and Putnam
argued that high rates of disease, crime, and delinquency in African
American culture were physiological, not social, in origin. To
integrate schools would force white students into a climate of disease
and crime. Moreover, school integration would inevitably lead to
"race mixing" destroying the genetic basis for American civilization.
The fear of miscegenation was a constant theme in the American South,
and George and Putnam gave this fear a scientific footing (George,
1961; Putnam, 1967).
The second biological argument was the appropriation of the work of
anthropologist Carleton Coon. Coon was a world-renowned physical
anthropologist and not directly involved with the IAAEE. He was,
however, a cousin to Carleton Putnam. In 1962 Coon published The
Origin of the Races which offered a multi-regional hypothesis for the
origin of humankind. Coon argued that the human race crossed the
threshold into homo sapiens not once, but five times, with whites
crossing first and black last, 200,000 years later. Putnam quickly
seized on Coon's theory as proof of the innate inferiority of African
Americans and ample justification for segregation. One of the great
benefits of my study has been to fully explore Coon's relationship
with Putnam. Privately Coon checked manuscripts and supplied
anthropological information for Putnam while publicly maintaining that
he had no relationship with the segregationist. (see my paper, "In
c. Psychological argument for segregation.
The majority opinion in the Brown case turned on the
finding of fact that racial segregation of schools was psychological
damaging to minority children. The IAAEE scientists simply reversed
the damage argument as found in Brown by claiming that integration
would lead to damage and that segregation was a psychologically more
healthy social arrangement.
A key to this argument was the notion that race prejudice was a
natural and healthy psychological phenomenon. IAAEE scientists,
Gregor in particular, argued that any member of a given race naturally
preferred only to associate with members of the same race. Because of
this innate "racial preference" segregation guaranteed a peaceful and
psychologically healthy society. By contrast, to force two races into
contact would lead to frustration, anxiety, and inter-racial
violence. Moreover, regardless of the ultimate cause, white children
on intelligence tests consistently outscored African American
children. Hence they would experience great frustration surrounded by
white children who would outperform them in academic performance
(Gregor, 1961, 1962, 1963; van den Haag, 1956, 1963, 1965).
In order to support the argument that segregation was psychologically
beneficial to African American school children, A. James Gregor went
as far as to duplicate Kenneth and Mamie Clark's famous "doll tests'
which were projective tests designed to measure group identity and
self-esteem in African American children (Gregor and McPherson, 1966a,
1966b). van den Haag was responsible for introducing these tests into
evidence through his expert testimony at trial.
The biological argument for segregation was from a previous
era--recalling the traditional southern fears of misgenenation and
southern certainty that there were unbridgeable differences between
black and white. The psychological argument, however predicted a line
of research that would follow the burgeoning Black Power movements of
the 1960s. As African Americans rejected the assimilationist model
offered by integrationist social science, racial separation would be
seen as a more healthy alternative than it had in the 1950s. Gregor,
in particular, was aware of the growing power of Black Nationalism and
coopted their call for voluntary racial separation in support of
enforced segregation (Gregor, 1963a, also my article, "The Triumph of
5. The Court Decisions.
The IAAEE scientists were eager to present their
scientific case in court and equally eager to put the NAACP's
scientific witnesses to the test of rigorous cross-examination.
Carleton Putnam wrote that in court:
It would be possible to expose the fallacies and supply the
deficiencies in Brown. The proponents of the environmental sociology,
the cultural anthropologists, the Montagues, the Klinebergs, and the
Clarks could be cross-examined under oath on the witness stand. So
could the Garretts and the Georges. Finally, adequate press coverage
would permit a beginning in the education of the public about the
facts (1967, 74).
It was not to be, however. The law was now favorable to the NAACP and
they relied on the rule of the law. With each scientific witness, the
NAACP moved to strike the testimony as immaterial to the case, relying
on the simple constitutional mandate of Brown. The reliance on the
rule of law fit perfectly with the strategy of the NAACP. In his
masterful analysis of the career of Thurgood Marshall, Mark Tushnet
noted that the overarching goal of the NAACP in the desegregation
campaign was the transformation of unfavorable case precedent into
favorable case precedent, "through a careful litigation strategy
pointing out anomalies in doctrine and identifying the inevitable
failure of society's efforts to explain why unjust doctrines
nonetheless were acceptable." However, once the victories were one,
that is once the first Brown decision was one, the situation changed
dramatically for the NAACP and they would rely on the legal rule of
Brown in subsequent desegregation litigation. Tushnet concluded,
"Once law became favorable, the rule of law was an advantage" and the
NAACP would argue against introducing social scientific evidence
The NAACP's motions to disallow the IAAEE's scientific testimony
failed and the evidence was introduced. The district court in the
first of these cases, Stell, found segregation constitutional
justified on the basis of the inferiority of African Americans. The
Stell decision was overruled by the Court of Appeals. The subsequent
cases were forced to follow the rule laid down by the Appeal court and
the cases were denied a hearing by the US Supreme Court. The court
cases died with a whimper after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights
Act, which permanently ended de jure segregation in the American
The issues raised by the IAAEE however, proved
enduring. Within a few years, Arthur Jensen would put forth the
position that there were significant heritable differences in IQ
between the races (Jensen, 1969). The idea that racial separation was
psychologically healthy would become more and more acceptable within
the social science community (Scott, 1997). Of course, given the
changes in political climate, no one argued on the basis of these
arguments that the country should return to legally enforced
segregation which underscores the argument that there is not
straightforward connection between a social scientific finding and a
particular social policy.
C. Contribution and Significance of the Study.
The IAAEE is the subject of two books and mentioned
briefly in two other books (Chase, 1980; Richards, 1997). The first
book is by I.A. Newby (1967), who uses the history of the IAAEE to
validate the civil rights movement, the Brown decision, and the
equality of the races at a time when these were still very live
issues. Indeed, the second edition of his book contains "responses"
by several mainstays of the IAAEE indicating that Newby is partaking
in these debates rather than offering an historical analysis of them.
A similar point could be made about the brief treatment of the IAAEE
in Allan Chase's The Legacy of Malthus (1980).
A more recent treatment is William H. Tucker's The
Science and Politics of Racial Research (1994). Tucker uses the
history of racial research as a cautionary tale and his book is a call
for the social sciences to abandon racial research altogether. Tucker
uncovered some fascinating material, but did not focus on the role of
the IAAEE in the battle to maintain segregation.
In addition to these works, Andrew Winston (1997,
1998) is examining the IAAEE. Winston is especially interested in
uncovering the neo-Fascist links between the IAAEE and far right
groups such as Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby. Like Tucker, Winston is
writing to an audience of psychologists. The Mankind Quarterly, the
journal founded by the IAAEE, is still in business and its affiliated
network of scientists still promulgates the inferiority of African
Americans. Winston intends his work to make clear the political and
social agendas of those still holding to the IAAEE line.
In my work, I hope to engage different historical
issues than previous writers. The story of the IAAEE and its struggle
to preserve racial segregation can shed new light on several issues
current in the historical literature. I will briefly describe a
number of these issues.
1. Biological Determinism and Racism.
My examination of the IAAEE's attempt to maintain
segregation with the use of social science will further current
historiographic debates on the relationship between "biological
determinism" and political ideologies. This debate is a long-standing
one that flares up every few decades, usually in response to highly
publicized studies that claim to link intelligence and race.
Over two decades ago, in response to the work of
psychologist Richard Herrnstein, Noam Chomsky pointed out that the
study of the relationship between intelligence and race is inherently
political. Noting that those, like Herrnstein and Berkeley
psychologist Arthur Jensen, who persisted in claiming the relationship
between race and intelligence was a matter of scientific import,
Chomsky argued that:
A possible correlation between mean IQ and skin color is of not
greater scientific interest than a correlation between any two other
arbitrarily selected traits, say, mean height and color of eyes....
Such questions might be interesting if the results had some bearing,
say, on hypotheses about the physiological mechanisms involved, but
this is not the case. Therefore the investigation seems of quite
limited scientific interest and the zeal and intensity with which some
pursue or welcome it cannot reasonable be attributed to a
dispassionate desire to advance society.
Lest the reader miss his point, Chomsky concluded that, not only was
the relationship between race and intelligence of no scientific
interest, but was not of "social importance, except under the
assumptions of a racist society" (Chomksy, 1976, 296).
Chomsky was only one of several researchers in the 1970s who were
responding to the furor aroused by Arthur Jensen's 1969 article, "How
Much Can We Boost IQ and Educational Achievement?" Jensen's article
had made the question of heritable differences in intelligence between
the races a matter of national concern and spawned a literature that
Graham Richards properly calls "dauntingly vast" (1997, 262) and we
will not be addressing all of the issues generated by Jensen's
article. Of particular relevance to the current project is the
attempt by scientists to use the history of intelligence testing to
undermine Jensen's argument.
A common strategy used by Chomsky and others in
scientific community attacking "Jensenism" was to claim that the
attempt to link race in intelligence was motivated by a political
rather than a scientific agenda. One of the weapons used in this
struggle was the history of psychological testing. One of the
earliest attempts was by Princeton psychologist Leon Kamin in his
book, The Science and Politics of IQ (1974). Kamin laid bare the
social prejudices of the pioneers of intelligence testing, portraying
them as unrepentant bigots. Lewis Terman, Robert Yerkes, and Henry
Goddard were portrayed as anti-Semitic, xenophobic white
supremacists. A decade later Kamin, geneticist Richard Lewontin and
neurobiologist Stephen Rose used historical evidence to reiterate the
theme that "biological determinism" was a "political ideology [that
claims] to be scientific" (1984, 29).
In 1981, Harvard paleontologist Stephen J. Gould used
history to launch another attack on biological determinism. Gould
explored the 19^th century science of craniology, which attempted to
prove racial superiority through measuring skulls and brain weights.
He then painstakingly demonstrated the scientific errors imbedded in
craniology and what he painted as its rightful successor, intelligence
testing. Concluded Gould, "previous claims for a direct biological
mapping of human affairs have recorded cultural prejudice and not
nature" (1981, 324). Gould's book was so successful that Richard
Herrnstein and Charles Murray, authors of the Bell Curve, called it
"the capstone of the assault on the integrity of the [psychometric]
discipline" (1994, 11)
Within the history of science, however, works such as
Kamin's and Gould's enjoy an uncertain reputation. On the one hand,
many found it refreshing to see history employed so effectively in the
cause of social justice. On the other, Gould and Kamin related
one-sided histories that smoothed over incredibly complex stories in
order to score political points. Benjamin Harris rightly points out
that Gould and Kamin were "concentrating on a few leading men in the
field, whom they see as ideologically unanimous and critically
involved in deciding social policy" (1997, 28). One of the leading
historians of intelligence testing, Leila Zenderland, makes a similar
point regarding the current controversy surrounding Herrnstein and
Murray's The Bell Curve. She notes that the book's popularity will
"push the books opponents, historians among them, to emphasize the
fact that testing has always been a racist, nativist, and class-biased
enterprise, and to cite the quotations that prove so." Unfortunately,
notes Zenderland, such a simplistic position will "marginalize all
other aspects of the history of psychological testing, and thus
disguise once again the more subtle roles that such tests came to play
in shaping the science of the mind in the twentieth century" (1997,
138). When historians of science turn to issues of "biological
determinism" whether it is the history of the eugenics movement or the
history of scientific racism, a more nuanced and complex story emerges
(Allen, 1997; Barkan, 1992; Cravens, 1988, 1996, Degler, 1991; Kevles,
1985, Provine 1973, 1986).
In her own work on intelligence testing, Zenderland
attempts to undermine the assumption that all hereditarians must be
social conservatives and all environmentalists must be socially
liberal. Zenderland uses the career of Henry Goddard, one of the
earliest testing pioneers to explore the futility of this
polarization. Concludes Zenderland, for Henry Goddard, "the label
`hereditarian' is in one sense perfectly accurate and in another
highly inadequate; calling Goddard a `conservative' is more
problematic still" (1998, 354).
I will explores a further complexity only hinted at by
Zenderland. My examination of segregationist scientists will further
problematize the link between "hereditarian" and "conservative. There
is little doubt that the maintenance of racial segregation was a
"conservative" position in the early 1960s and many of segregationist
scientists were proud to identify themselves as "conservative".
However, not all of them did or could possibly be identified as
"hereditarians". "Biological determinism" was not a necessary
condition for a scientist to argue for racial segregation. Indeed, to
build as strong a case as possible, it was necessary for
segregationist scientists to both embrace essential and biological
differences between the races and the contrary position, that
biological differences were irrelevant to the scientific case for
segregation. Part of the complexity of historical story is how
segregationist scientists fashioned a case for segregation from both
the science of an earlier era, that with assumed that racial
differences were real and enduring and the science of the time, which
argued that racial differences were not enduring but merely the
product of American society.
By exploring this complexity I hope to dissolve further the false
dichotomy that assumes all hereditarians are racists and all
environmentalists are egalitarians. If historians want to use the
past as a weapon against racial policies that they view as regressive,
it does not help to automatically equate "racism" with
The further problematizing of biological determinism opens up
significant questions for historians of science. Where Kamin and
Gould used social construction as a bludgeon against the science of an
earlier era, showing how scientist's racist and nativist beliefs
interfered with the proper interpretation of scientific data, they
seem unaware to the extent that, with a few notable exceptions (Glass,
1986; Richards, 1998), recent work on the history of scientific racism
has shown that the scientific "antiracism" no less than "scientific
racism" is a social construction (Barkan, 1992; Degler, 1991; Provine
1973, 1986; Samelson, 1978). Sounding much like Carleton Putnam and
Henry Garrett, historians of science have argued that the increase in
number of Jewish scientists was a significant factor in the
abandonment of scientific racism, that the changing political climate
of the United States was far more important than scientific data in
rejecting white supremacy, and that the revulsion to Nazi excesses was
the real reason so many scientists "changed their minds" about the
relative value of the races. In making these arguments, have
historians of science denied the "objectivity of science" to those
working toward a more racially just world? Leila Zenderland asks
The central problem can be stated simply: how ought one to challenge
some of the errors and oversimplifications evident in popular studies
such as Gould's Mismeasure of Man without being driven into the
waiting arms of Herrnstein and Murray and The Bell Curve? (1997, 138)
One of the problems raised by Zenderland's question is that at least
since the 1960s, most historical literature on race was been "based on
the objective truth of scientific antiracism" (Novick, 1988, 348).
Historians who write on the "social construction of race" in fields
outside the history of science often take as their starting point the
"objective truth" of the equality of the races. One of the leading
figures in the history of the social construction of race in the law,
Ian F. Haney Lopez, begins his discussion with the bald statement,
that "Biological race is an illusion" and hence race must instead by a
"social construction" (1995, 200). In a similar vein, labor historian
David Roedinger writes that "race is given meaning through the agency
of human beings in concrete historical and social contexts, and is not
a biological or natural category (1994, 2). Writers such as Haney
Lopez and Roedinger seem unaware that current scholarship in the
history of science has shown that their confident assertion that race
is not a biological category is itself a social construction. It can
no longer be a safe starting point for anti-racist writers to assert
that race is not a natural category because we have not yet worked out
the implications that antiracism is not founded in "objective
science." I hope to begin to work out an answer for this fundamental
problem in the history of science.
2. Reconceptualizing Racist Ideology.
My study of the IAAEE will show how we need to
redefine our understanding of racial ideology. Building on the work
of George Frederickson, I hope to offer a fresh understanding of how
racist ideology can be reshaped to meet changing social conditions.
Fundamental to this new understanding is a rejection of the notion
that a necessary condition of racist ideology is the belief in innate
racial differences. One of the great strengths of the IAAEE's defense
of segregation was that it did not depend on notions of biological
superiority of the white race, allowing IAAEE scientists to deny that
they were "racists".
Race is now an accepted category for historical
analysis despite the fact that historians seldom define what it is
they mean by the term. Jacqueline Jones admits "In the late
twentieth-century, historians tend to use the word `race' in rather
imprecise ways" (1998, 221). Part of the problem is, of course, is
that we live in a time when "race" is often thought not to exist. A
glance at the appended bibliography will reveal that the word "race"
is often encapsulated by "scare quotes" by writers in the 1990s,
warning the reader that it is not a "real" category.We live in a
paradoxical time, then, for many academic writers race is not real but
"racism" definitely is. Racism, more than race, is seen as a real,
pervading social phenomenon. It is curious then that, much writing on
racism is beset with problems of definition (Webster, 1992).
Recent writers on the history of racial ideology in Western thought
and society attempt offer us more clear definitions of racism. These
writers stress that racism is a recent phenomenon, quite different
from forms of subjection and oppression that existed before the late
18^th century (Allen, 1994, 1997; Hannaford, 1996; Smedley 1999;
contrast with Gossett, 1963; Davis, 1966). Smedley provides a
convenient listing of the relevant elements of racial ideology that
distinguishes it from "mere" ethnocentrism: first, humans can be
classified into discrete biological groups; second, these groups can
be arranged hierarchically; third physical characteristics of human
beings are indications of their inner mental and spiritual qualities;
fourth, these qualities are inherited; fifth and finally, these racial
groupings are fixed and cannot be transcended (1999, 28).
While valuable, these notions of racial ideology do
not seem do be adequate to capture all facets of racist thought. A
notable example is the writings of Dinesh D'souza who firmly discounts
genetic differences between the races. Hence, D'souza could not be
categorized as a racist, since he believes racial differences are
cultural and not biological in origin.Indeed, D'souza's argument is
much like that of A. James Gregor. Both argue that the cultural
differences between African Americans and white Americans justify
differential treatment. D'souza believes that racial discrimination
against African Americans by white Americans is rational and justified
and favors rolling back portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (1995).
The question then becomes, despite the fact that D'souza rejects many
of the tenants of racist ideology, those about inherited mental and
moral differences, can he be branded a racist? Similarly, can those
within the IAAEE who rejected innate biological inferiority, such as
van den Haag and Gregor, be considered racist? The question is vital,
for if segregation could be defended outside a racist ideology our
understanding of how Jim Crow functioned as a social system needs to
be seriously rethought for segregation would not be a function of
One historian who has addressed this dilemma is George Fredrickson.
Fredrickson notes the argument of D'souza who rejects biological
determinism in favor of a cultural argument mirrors the racism of the
South African regime which founded apartheid on the basis of cultural,
rather than biological differences. Fredrickson concludes that our
conceptualization of the ideology of racism needs to be reformulated.
"If the term racism is to apply" Fredrickson argues, " its association
with the specific form of biological determinism that justified
slavery and segregation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries must
be regarded as fortuitous rather then essential" (1997, 81-82).
Rejecting biological determinism while maintaining that "cultural"
determinism can be the basis of a racist ideology allows us to see how
segregationist scientists could meld together such a coherent position
from seeming contradictory elements. One example is the tension
between the notion that people have a natural tendency to associate
with members of their own race and the notion that integration would
inevitably lead to race mixing. Both the idea that segregation
reflects the "natural order" of the world and that the threat of
miscegenation is high were long staples of white supremacist discourse
(Vander Zanden, 1959; Williamson, 1984). These twin claims were given
voice within the community of segregationist scientists by Putnam's
continued claims that school integration would "inevitably" lead to
miscegenation and Gregor's claims that race prejudice is a naturally
occurring phenomenon and the races do not naturally commingle. One of
the functions of ideology, especially racial ideology is to smooth
over and explain away contradictions in the world (Fields, 1982).I
hope to demonstrate how segregationist scientists maintained a united
front because they all were operating from an ideology of white
3. Racist ideology within the American Ideologies of Freedom and
My history of the IAAEE will add to a growing
literature of the flexibility of "The American Creed". By closely
examining how segregationist scientists preached inequality in a
fashion that they saw as consistent with American ideals of freedom
More than half a century after it was formulated;
Gunnar Myrdal's framing of "An American Dilemma" remains a puzzle for
American society. The dilemma, as framed by Myrdal, was between
American's professed allegiance to the "American Creed" of freedom and
equality versus their racist practice with disenfranchised and
discriminated against African American citizens (1944). While still
respected as a significant work, sociologists of race relations have
moved beyond Myrdal's analysis of American race relations and into new
lines of research (Clayton, 1996; Jackson, 1990; Steinberg, 1995).
Myrdal envisioned a constant psychological struggle
within the minds of white Americans between their belief in freedom
and equality and their racist beliefs, which denied freedom and
equality to racial minorities. Some historians have attempted to use
Myrdal's ideas to explore the history of race relations (Koval,
1970). However, one of the chief functions of a racist ideology is to
define the world in such a way as to keep social benefits flowing to
those in power (Appiah, 1990).Hence, one of the chief functions of
a racist ideology would be to define ideas such as "equality" and
"freedom" in such a way to insure an inequitable distribution of power
and resources.Indeed recent historical works have found that
freedom and equality have been defined by white elites to easily
exclude African Americans (Condit and Lacaites, 1993; Foner, 1998).
Within the context of the present project, I hope to
add to this literature on the shifting meanings of "freedom" and
"equality". For example, segregationists often argued that "equality"
was not a constitutional value and, in fact, was a communistic value
that was in direct conflict with "freedom". This was one of the chief
arguments advanced by attorney R. Carter Pittman, the chief attorney
in the trials I wish to examine. Pittman argued that only in the
constitutions of communist countries was "equality" guaranteed. In a
free country, however, equality interfered with freedom. Some people
were naturally more gifted than other and, in a free society, would
naturally achieve more. Hence court decisions based on "equality"
were suspect (1954, 1956, 1960).
Segregationist scientists were eager to supply
scientific proof on the inequality of humankind. Science had proven
the inequality of the races, the segregationist scientists declared,
and that inequality does not conflict with our basic democratic
precepts, which should focus on liberty as a fundamental value. The
ideology of scientific racism, which proclaimed the fundamental
inequality of the races and the ideology of "the American Creed" could
be joined without fear of contradiction. In the proposed study I hope
to show in some detail how this maneuver was accomplished.
4. The Science of Race in a Court of Law.
Long ago, philosopher Stephen Toulmin claimed that
science and the law were two different "fields of argument" each with
its own standards for evidence and reasoning. Toulmin argued that
what counts as a cogent argument in one field may not count as a
cogent argument in another field (1958). More recent work has
explored the complex interaction of science in the legal system, often
noting that science fits only poorly in the processes of the law
(Goldberg, 1994; Jasanoff, 1995).
I have made my own contributions to this literature in
my work on the Brown case. In that work, I noted how scientists could
only function within the legal system by adhering to self-professed
standards of scientific objectivity. This adherence resulted in a
paradox: by remaining distant from the actual litigation process
scientists were able to become more effective advocates within that
process (Jackson, 1998). My current project will open up new aspects
of the interaction of science and the law.
First, it will shed new light on how the science of
race has fared in American courts of law. Historians have noted that
one of the struggles social science has had in American culture is the
difficulty in getting people to replace their "common sense" about the
social world with "expert knowledge" as provided by social scientists
(Morowski and Hornstein, 1991). This problem was particularly acute
in a court of law when scientists would be called as expert witnesses
to provide testimony on race relations. Courts consistently refused
to substitute scientific understanding of race for "common sense"
understandings (Haney Lopez, 1996; Pascoe, 1996).
For the cases, scientists were providing scientific
evidence that supported common sense notions of race in the American
South. "Everybody knew" in the South that African Americans were not
as smart, industrious, or trustworthy as white Americans, hence the
scientific testimony to that effect would be welcomed by the District
Courts. Because the appellate courts were more insulated from the
segregationist establishment of the South, the scientific arguments
would be much less persuasive there and the rule of law as laid down
by Brown much more so.
My study will add to the literature of the interaction
between science and the law in an additional way. I will show how
segregationist scientists took advantage of the two exemplars of
objectivity in American society: science and the law. The court
system provided the perfect venue for segregationist scientists
because it allowed them to take advantage of their minority status
within the scientific community. Segregationist scientists knew that
their views did not reflect those of the vast majority of their
scientific colleagues, indeed several professional scientific
associations drew up formal resolutions of condemnation of
segregationist science. However, as the segregationist scientists
were found of saying, scientific truths were not decided by majority
vote but rather by the cogency of scientific arguments. As the
anti-majoritarian branch of government, segregationist scientists
believed, the court system provided perfect venue for them to put
forth their case and let the court decide if the evidence was sound
and the conclusions worthy (Armstrong, Crutchfield, Hoy, and Kuttner,
1963). The segregationist scientists felt that judges, as experts in
sifting evidence and discovering truth, would prove that segregation
was scientifically justified. I hope to explore in some depth how
this twin facets of the "objectivity" of the law and the "objectivity"
of science were melded in these cases.
The objectivity of these institutions was particularly
important for upper-class defenders of segregation. In his study of
the Citizen's Councils, Neil McMillen noted that many white
southerners had an obsession with respectability. Many upper-class
southerners wanted to defy integration, but also wanted to distance
themselves from the violence and destructiveness of the Ku Klux Klan
and other militant branches of the massive resistance movement.
(McMillen, 1971). Litigation offered one road to respectability, as
violence and threats were put aside in favor of reasoned discourse
within an accepted legal forum (Goldfield, 1990). Layered over the
respectability offered by the courts was the respect garnered by
science. Science, as a value-neutral, apolitical institution had the
ability to transform highly emotional issues of human differences into
one of objective reality, immune from moral criticism (Rose, 1992).
Hence the prospect of embracing both the neutrality of science and the
neutrality of law offered segregationists a unique opportunity to
claim the mantle of objective truth.
C. Current State of the Proposed Study.
The materials that will be examined in this study fall
into three broad categories: published works of the historical actors,
legal materials from the trials and appeals process, and unpublished
papers from archival sources. This section outlines what has been
accomplished and what remains to be done for each of these categories.
As the appended bibliography should demonstrate, I
have gathered much of the material published by the segregationist
scientists and the segregationist attorneys.
The legal materials needed for this study include
briefs submitted to the Court for the trials and the testimony offered
by the expert witnesses. The Clerks of the District Courts have
informed me that briefs submitted at the District level were regularly
destroyed. However one of the cases, Stell v. Savannah was appealed
to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and I have retrieved the briefs
for that case. The testimony by the expert witnesses is available
from the Clerks of the Federal District Courts. I have the testimony
for the Evers and Stell trial already and will have the testimony for
the remaining trials in hand soon.
I have collected material from the following archival collections:
Duke University Archives, Duke University, Durham NC:
Earnest Sevier Cox Papers
Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Palo Alto CA:
Nathaniel Weyl Papers
H. Keith Thompson Papers
Right Wing Collection
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC:
Margaret Mead Papers
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington
Carleton S. Coon Papers
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel
Wesley Critz George Papers
Stanford University Archives, Stanford University, Palo Alto CA:
William S. Shockley Papers
I would like to visit the following collections as well:
1. Geneticists Papers at the American Philosophical Society.
Theodosius Dobzhansky and L.C. Dunn were two scientists who took the
threat posed by segregationist scientists seriously. By examining
their papers it may be possible to see how "mainstream" scientists
worked against segregationists.
2. Papers of Clarence Oliver. University of Texas geneticist
Clarence Oliver was on the IAAEE executive board. While he did not
publish extensively on segregation, letters I have recovered from the
George papers indicate he was quite active behind the scenes. There
is a large collection of his papers open for researchers at the
University of Texas that could provide important information on the
inner workings of the IAAEE.
D. Final form of the proposed study.
I have attached a proposed table of contents for the
book.IAAEE's battle to overturn Brown would be of interest to
historians of science, historians of the American South, legal
historians and African American historians. Given the ongoing
controversies about claims made in books like The Bell Curve, I think
that a historical examination of the political uses of these claims
would be of wide ranging interest. Additionally, the study of the
American Right has undergone a renaissance among American historians,
meaning there is a large body of literature to support a study of the
IAAEE (Brinkley, 1994; Kazin 1992; Ribuffo, 1994).
1. Allen, G. E. (1997). The Social and Economic Origins of
Genetic Determinism: A Case History of the American Eugenics Movement,
1900-1940 and its Lessons for Today. Genetica, 99, 77-88.
2. Allen, T. W. (1994). The Invention of the White Race Vol.
1). London: Verso .
3. Allen, T. W. (1997). The Invention of the White Race Vol.
2). London: Verso.
4. Andrew, J. A. I. (1997). The Other Side of the Sixties:
Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics. New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
5. Appiah, K. A. (1990). Racisms. in D. T. Goldberg (editor),
Anatomy of Racism (pp. 3-17). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
6. Armstrong, C. P. (1964). Psychodiagnosis, Prognosis, School
Desegregation and Delinquency. Mankind Quarterly, 5, 63-80.
7. Armstrong, C. P., Crutchfield, S. S., Hoy, W. E., &
Kuttner, R. E. (1963). Legal Testimony and Scientific Evidence: A
Contrast. Mankind Quarterly, 4, 105-110.
8. Armstrong, C. P., Erickson, R. W., Garrett, H. E., & Gregor
A. James. (1963). Interracial Housing and the Law: A Social Science
Assessment. in A. Avins (editor), Open Occupancy vs. Forced Housing
Under the Fourteenth Amendment (pp. 137-158). New York: Bookmailer.
9. Armstrong, C. P., & Gregor A. James. (1964). Insulated
Schools and Negro Character Development: Some Considerations of the
Possible Effects. Psychiatry, 27, 69-72.
10. Barkan, E. (1992). The Retreat of Scientific Racism:
Changing Concepts of Race in the Britain and the United States Between
the World Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
11. Barker, M. (1990). Biology and the New Racism. in D. T.
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12. Bloch, C. J. (1959). Civil Rights--Or Civil Wrongs? Georgia
Bar Journal, 22, 127-139.
13. Bloch, C. J. (1959). The School Segregation Cases: A Legal
Error that Should be Corrected. American Bar Association Journal, 45,
14. Bloch, C. J. (1958). States Rights: The Law of the Land.
Atlanta: Harrison Company.
15. Brennan, M. C. (1995). Turning Right in the Sixties: The
Conservative Capture of the GOP. Chapel Hill: University of North
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17. Chase, A. (1980). The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of
the New Scientific Racism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
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21. Cravens, H. (1996). Scientific Racism in Modern America,
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38. George, W. C. (1967). Equalitarianism: What Does the
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