Winner, Award of Excellence
Winner, Award of Excellence
Pamela Newkirk, PhD, is an award-winning journalist, book author, and scholar. A Professor of Journalism at New York University, Newkirk is author of the acclaimed book Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, which was honored as one of the Best Books of 2015 by NPR and was awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Literature. Newkirk shared a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting at Newsday. Her other books include of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media; Letters from Black America; and A Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African American Love Letters. She earned her master’s in journalism and her PhD in comparative and international education from Columbia University. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation, and many other publications.
Olufemi Oluniyi, PhD, is Executive Director of the Centre for Values and Social Change in Lagos, Nigeria. Author of the book Reconciliation in Northern Nigeria: The Space for Public Apology, he has been involved in peace, reconciliation, and social justice efforts in Africa for many years, and he has a particular interest in how European colonial policies toward Africa were shaped by Social Darwinism. He has a Master’s in Theology from the University of Edinburgh and was a Queen’s Cross scholar for his PhD at the University of Aberdeen, which focused on public theology and advocacy journalism. Dr. Oluniyi previously taught at the Nigeria State College of Education, served as Dean for Academic Affairs for West Africa Theological Seminary, and served as Editorial Board Chair for the National Mirror Newspapers in Nigeria. He was also a Visiting Research Professor at the Catholic University of America.
Eugenics was the science of breeding better humans based on Darwinian principles. It was supposed to allow humanity to take control of its own evolution by breeding a better race. In the words of Horatio Hackett Newman, a University of Chicago Zoology Professor, through eugenics “man might control his own evolution and save himself from racial degeneration.” The term itself was coined by Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. “Positive eugenics” focused on encouraging those deemed the most fit to reproduce more, while “negative eugenics” focused on curtailing reproduction by those deemed unfit, including mental defectives, criminals, and non-whites.
Eugenics was widely embraced by leading evolutionary biologists, doctors, and politicians in the early years of the twentieth century. Promoters of eugenics in America included scientists at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, the University of Chicago, the National Academy of Sciences, and many other institutions.
For more information:
Darwin Day in America by John G. West (Book)
The Eugenics Archive (Website)
Charles Darwin is best known for formulating the theory of evolution by natural selection. The heyday of eugenics came after Charles Darwin’s death, but Darwin helped supply the rationale for eugenics in various passages in his book The Descent of Man, where he warned that “civilized” societies were undercutting natural selection and destroying themselves by saving the sick, helping the poor, vaccinating people against small-pox, and allowing their worst members to breed. Darwin did go on to caution that humans can’t follow the dictates of “hard reason” in such cases without undermining their “sympathy… the noblest part of our nature.” At the same time, he expressed hope that natural selection would in fact continue to eliminate those he considered a drag on society. Scholars continue to debate how much support Charles Darwin lent to Social Darwinism. Charles Darwin’s son Leonard later became the Chairman of the British Eugenics Society for many years, and he spoke at the Second International Congress of Eugenics in New York City in 1921.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York City remains one of the world’s leading natural history museums. During the early part of the twentieth century, it was also one of the nation’s leading proponents of eugenics. Under the direction of paleontologist and eugenist Henry Fairfield Osborn, it even hosted the Second International Congress of Eugenics in 1921 and the Third International Congress of Eugenics in 1932.