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

By | June 25, 2017
Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck Author Adam Cohen
ISBN-10 0143109995
ISBN-13 9780143109990
Year 2017-03-07
Pages 416
Language English
Publisher Penguin Books
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Longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for NonfictionOne of Americas great miscarriages of justice the Supreme Courts infamous 1927 Buck v Bell ruling made government sterilization of undesirable citizens the law of the land In 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 In Imbeciles bestselling author Adam Cohen exposes the courts decision to allow the sterilization of a young woman it wrongly thought to be feebleminded and to champion the mass eugenic sterilization of undesirable citizens for the greater good of the country The 81 ruling was signed by some of the most revered figures in American lawincluding Chief Justice William Howard Taft a former U S president 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 courts 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 A gripping courtroom drama it 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 who was 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 charged with being 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 to determine whether Virginias new eugenic sterilization law could withstand a legal challenge A cabal of powerful men lined up against her and no one stood up for hernot even her lawyer who it is now clear was in collusion with the men who wanted her sterilized In the end Bucks case was heard by the Supreme Court the institution established by the founders 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 who was raised to believe in the superiority of his own bloodlines wrote a vicious haunting decision upholding Bucks sterilization and imploring the nation to sterilize many more Holmes got his wish and 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 the intellectual force of a legal brief and the passion of a front page expos Imbeciles is an ardent indictment of our champions of justice and our optimistic faith in progress as well as a triumph of American legal and social history From the Hardcover edition

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