The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

Book - 2016
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"One of America's great miscarriages of justice, the Supreme Court's infamous 1927 Buck v. Bell ruling made government sterilization of "undesirable" citizens the law of the land New York Times bestselling author Adam Cohen tells the story in Imbeciles of one of the darkest moments in the American legal tradition: the Supreme Court's decision to champion eugenic sterilization for the greater good of the country. In 1927, when the nation was caught up in eugenic fervor, the justices allowed Virginia to sterilize Carrie Buck, a perfectly normal young woman, for being an "imbecile." It is a story with many villains, from the superintendent of the Dickensian Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded who chose Carrie for sterilization to the former Missouri agriculture professor and Nazi sympathizer who was the nation's leading advocate for eugenic sterilization. But the most troubling actors of all were the eight Supreme Court justices who were in the majority--including William Howard Taft, the former president; Louis Brandeis, the legendary progressive; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., America's most esteemed justice, who wrote the decision urging the nation to embark on a program of mass eugenic sterilization"-- Provided by publisher
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781594204180
Characteristics: 402 pages, [8] unnumbered pages of illustrations : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Apr 14, 2017

As a history, Imbeciles deals primarily with the men who shaped Carrie’s fate, rather than with the woman herself. No doubt these prestigious and well-educated men left a larger record than a woman who had to leave school after the fifth grade, and who did not speak publicly about her situation until the 1980s. Cohen profiles the four men who played the largest roles in forming and deciding Carrie’s case: Dr. Albert Priddy, Harry Laughlin, Aubrey Strode, and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Each man merits two chapters, a structure that bogs down the narrative and creates repetition as Cohen retreads portions of the timeline with each new figure.

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Oct 04, 2016

Cohen's book, for the most part, covers ground already well broken by Paul A. Lombardo's 2008 "Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck V. Bell". I did, however, find Cohen's two chapters on Justice Holmes interesting, especially Holmes' strong ties to four important Zionist figures of his day--Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Walter Lippman, and Harold Laski. Though Cohen, understandably, makes no mention of Zionism and you'll have to turn elsewhere for that.

Apr 04, 2016

This is a supreme book in the realm of // Why we must ALWAYS question Authority - - and who the heck makes these people The Authority? \\. On CNN today, some news clown prattled on about why Trump's [whom I am no fan of, other than he's not on the Koch brothers payroll, ditto for Bernie] program to erase the national debt wouldn't work, yet she failed to mention that over $12 trillion is unaccounted for in DoD funds [from Clinton to Bush to Obama] and that makes up a large portion of the existing national debt [$19 trillion]. Massive exclusion of the facts, of the data, is the norm with all these so-called experts, who frequently are simply crony hires, crony appointments, and crony failures!
The imbeciles, of course, were those people sitting on the Supreme Court bench!
[An outstanding book also covering this topic is called: Three Generations, No Imbeciles, by Paul A. Lombardo.]


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Apr 14, 2017

In 1907, Indiana passed the first law authorizing a state to engage in eugenic sterilization, which permitted medical operations that cut off the reproductive abilities of those who were deemed “unfit” to procreate for a variety of reasons. However, it would take twenty years for the constitutionality of such laws to be sanctioned by the Supreme Court, and that case would come from Virginia, a relatively late adopter of eugenic sterilization. At the centre of that case was Carrie Buck, a girl of nineteen who had already borne one illegitimate child, and who was the daughter of a woman who had also been deemed “feebleminded.” In a nearly unanimous decision that has never been overturned, the Supreme Court ruled on Buck v. Bell in 1927, upholding eugenics laws broadly, and Carrie’s sterilization specifically. In Imbeciles, Adam Cohen investigates this miscarriage of justice, chronicling the rise of the eugenics movement in America, and how Carrie Buck was actively misrepresented for the sake of this cause.


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Apr 14, 2017

Whitehead’s representation of Carrie at the trial and on appeal was an extraordinary case of malfeasance. Not only did he violate well-established ethical rules about the duty of loyalty to a client…but his entire representation of Carrie, in a case of enormous importance to her, was a fraud.


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