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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 eugenics—the belief that society could be improved through selective breeding. 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 he 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 He also supported laws that would exclude Asians from entering the United States.4

In 1929, Stoddard—who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan5—had a public debate with W. E. B.  Du Bois, one of America’s leading Black intellectuals and advocates for equality. 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 attempted to defend racial segregation in the United States. The audience laughed at Stoddard, who declined to have further debates with Du Bois.

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 Nazi ideas about race, eugenics, and national unity. 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 forced sterilizations in Germany since the law took effect in July 1933,8 Stoddard’s book presented readers with a rare look at Nazi racial policies at work in daily life—as seen through the approving eyes of an influential American eugenicist and white supremacist.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 publicly denied that he was a member of the Klan, but in fact he served as the so-called "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. To learn more about Nazi theories of eugenics, see the Experiencing History collection, Targets of Eugenics.

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Archival Information for This Item

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