Imbeciles : : The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, And The Sterilization Of Carrie Buck
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Carrie Buck -- Albert Priddy -- Harry Langhlin -- Aubrey Strode -- Oliver Wendell Holmes -- Carrie Buck.
ln 1927, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling so disturbing, ignorant, and cruel that it stands as one of the great injustices in American history. Here, Adam Cohen exposes the court's decision to allow the sterilization of a young woman it wrongly thought to be "feebleminded" and to champion the mass eugenic sterilization of undesirables for the greater good of the country. The 8-1 ruling was signed by some of the most revered figures in American law-- including Chief Justice William Howard Taft, and Louis Brandeis, a progressive icon. Oliver Wendell Holmes, considered by many the greatest Supreme Court justice in history, wrote the majority opinion, including the court's famous declaration "'Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Imbeciles is the shocking story of Buck v. Bell, a legal case that challenges our faith in American justice. This gripping courtroom drama pits a helpless young woman against powerful scientists, lawyers, and judges who believed that eugenic measures were necessary to save the nation from being "swamped with incompetence." At the center was Carrie Buck, born into a poor family in Charlottesville, Virginia, and taken in by a foster family, until she became pregnant out of wedlock. She was then declared "feebleminded" and shipped off to the Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded. Buck v. Bell unfolded against the backdrop of a nation in the thrall of eugenics, which many Americans thought would uplift the human race. Congress embraced this fervor, enacting the first laws designed to prevent immigration by Italians, Jews, and other groups thought to be genetically inferior. Cohen shows how Buck arrived at the Colony at just the wrong time, when influential scientists and politicians were looking for a "test case." A cabal of powerful men lined up against her, and no one stood up for her--not even her lawyer, who, it is now clear, was in collusion with those who wanted her sterilized. In the end, Buck's case was heard by the Supreme Court, the institution established to ensure that justice would prevail. The court could have seen through the false claim that Buck was a threat to the gene pool, or it could have found that forced sterilization was a violation of her rights. Instead, Holmes, a scion of several prominent Boston Brahmin families, raised to believe in the superiority of his own bloodlines, wrote a vicious, haunting decision upholding Buck's sterilization and imploring the nation to sterilize many more. Before the madness ended, some sixty to seventy thousand Americans were sterilized. Cohen overturns cherished myths and demolishes lauded figures in relentless pursuit of the truth. With intellectual force and passion, Imbeciles is an ardent indictment of our champions of justice and our optimistic faith in progress.--Adapted from dust jacket.
New York, New York : Penguin Press, 2016.
Year Published: 2016
Description: 402 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Buck, Carrie, -- 1906-1983 -- Trials, litigation, etc.
Involuntary sterilization -- Law and legislation.
Eugenics -- Law and legislation.
Involuntary sterilization -- Law and legislation -- Virginia.