Eugenics and Italian
Eugenics ("well born") was coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883 (cousin of Charles Darwin). The term was used to describe the study of human improvement by genetic control. People in the eugenics movement aimed to improve the human condition by producing a superior race through genetic selection. The image on the right (click it to see a larger version) identifies Eugenics as the "self-direction of human evolution" and it purports to integrate information from many disciplines. The eugenics philosophy was the basis of Nazi Germany's extermination of Jews and other "inferior" races. Less extreme, but also very disturbing, practices based on eugenics beliefs took place right here in the United States. Influential Americans were successful in implementing various strategies to "purify" the race, including:
southern Italians and eastern European Jews. To read some of his comments click here.
May 2, 1927 - U.S. Supreme Court upheld Virginia's sterilization act 8-1. Chief Justice Oliver Wendal Holmes wrote " It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind."
1933 - Germany's Hitler passes the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Disease which was very similar to the Virginia statute. As is well known Hitler expanded his eugenics policy to purify the race by murdering millions in the Holocaust.(Click here to read about Sora Seiler-Vigorito, a survivor of the Holocaust and the barbaric experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele)
The Eugenics philosophy was seriously flawed. Some of the most significant problems with the Eugenics movement were:
If you are interested in learning more about this ugly scar in human history, there is an excellent site with a wealth of information, pictures, and original historical documents on the Eugenics movement. This site is provided by the Cold Spring Harbor Institute, Long Island NY, the home of the defunct National Eugenics Office.
Some notes on Italian Emigration
Last updated: March 23, 2000