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Lothrop Stoddard: "In a Eugenics Court"

Lothrop Stoddard Into the Darkness
Duell, Sloan, and Pierce, Inc.; Photo: Public Domain

Writer and historian Theodore Lothrop Stoddard was one of the most infamous American advocates of “scientific” racism. An outspoken white supremacist, Stoddard believed that western civilization was in danger from a “rising tide of colored” races.1 In his writings, Stoddard warned that a growing threat from “undermen” and the “unwashed masses” would lead to the destruction of the existing social order through revolution.2

Because of his well known and widely published views on race, Stoddard testified to Congress on immigration issues in the 1920s and 1930s. He supported restricting immigration to the United States, and particularly opposed the admission of groups he considered to be “undesirable” or racially inferior. On one occasion, Stoddard referred to refugees from the Middle East who were fleeing violence as  “parasitical” and “mongrel” people who would be “very undesirable immigrants.”3 Likewise, he supported laws that would exclude Asians entering the United States.4

In 1929, Stoddard—who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan5—took on W. E. B.  Du Bois, one of America’s leading Black intellectuals and civil rights advocates, in a public debate. Facing off in a large hall in Chicago, the two addressed the question, “Shall the Negro Be Encouraged to Seek Cultural Equality?"6 Over the course of the debate, Stoddard stated his opposition to “race mixing” and attemped to defend racial segregation in the United States.

Stoddard’s views on race and eugenics were well known in Europe and some of his works were translated. German race scientists and Nazi Party officials praised his work on race, eugenics, and immigration policy.7

Shortly after World War II began in 1939, Stoddard traveled to Europe to tour and write about Nazi Germany. During his months-long stay, Nazi officials welcomed him and gave him access to the country’s leaders—including Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler—as well as prominent Nazi “race scientists.” Upon his return to the United States, Stoddard published a book describing his trip, titled Into the Darkness: Nazi Germany Today

In the chapter featured here—“In a Eugenics Court”—Stoddard describes the “amazing mixture of idealism and propaganda” embraced by Nazi policymakers in their campaign to reorganize German society according to race and eugenics theory. He also includes a detailed description of how German courts assessed whether individuals would be subject to sterilization under Germany’s so-called “Law for Prevention of Hereditary Diseases.” Although American newspapers had reported on sterilizations in Germany since the law took effect in July 1933,8 Stoddard’s book presented readers with a rare look at Nazi race theory at work in daily life—as seen through the approving eyes of an American racial "scientist."9

Stoddard reached a large audience with his many books, published by the respected firm, Charles Scribner's Sons. US President Warren G. Harding praised his work, as did prominent British publisher, Lord Northcliffe.

Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White Supremacy (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920). 

These refugees included Armenians who were fleeing genocide in the Ottoman Empire. See Stoddard's comments in Admission of Near East Refugees, Hearings before The Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, Sixty-Seventh Congress, HR 13269, December 15, 16, and 19, 1922, Serial 1-C, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1923), 13–20.

 

Lothrop Stoddard, "The Japanese Question in California," The Annals of the American Academy, vol. 93, no. 1 (1921): 42–47.

Stoddard denied membership in the Klan, but in fact served as "Exalted Cyclops" of the "Provisional Klan No. 1" in Massachusets. David M. Chalmers, Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1987), 270.

For a transcript of the debate, see Report of Debate Conducted by the Chicago Forum, "Shall the Negro Be Encouraged to Seek Cultural Equality?" March 17, 1929; see also, Carol Taylor, "W. E. B. Du Bois's Challenge to Scientific Racism," Journal of Black Studies, vol. 11, no. 4 (June, 1981), 449–460. For more on Du Bois, see the related items in Experiencing History, W. E. B. Du Bois: "The Negro and the Warsaw Ghetto" and W. E. B. Du Bois: "A Forum of Fact and Opinion: Race Prejudice in Nazi Germany."

Stefan Kühl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 38.

For more on American news coverage of the 1933 law, see the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's citizen history project, History Unfolded.

For more on eugenics and "scientific" racism in the US, see the related collection in Experiencing HistoryNazi Ideals and American Society. For backround on the eugenics movement more generally, see the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's online lecture series. See also USHMM's collection of teaching materials on Racial "Science" and Law in Nazi Germany and the United States: Timeline Extension.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Duell, Sloan, and Pierce, Inc.
Photo: Public Domain
Date Created
1940
Page(s) 187–200
Author / Creator
Theodore Lothrop Stoddard
Language(s)
English
Location
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Manuscript
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