American Experience: The Eugenics Crusade

American Experience: The Eugenics Crusade

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 9:00pm - 11:00pm

Eugenic and Health Exhibit, Kansas Free Fair, 1929.

Courtesy of American Philosophical Society, American Eugenics Society Records.

Uncover the story of the largely unknown campaign to breed a "better" American race.

Tracing the rise of the movement that turned the fledgling science of heredity into a powerful instrument of social control.The two-hour documentary is a cautionary tale about the quest for human perfection. American Experience: The Eugenics Crusade  premieres Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

Written and directed by Michelle Ferrari, produced by Ferrari, Rafael de la Uz and Connie Honeycutt, and executive produced by Mark Samels. The Eugenics Crusade, populated by figures both celebrated and obscure, it is an often revelatory portrait of an America at once strange and eerily familiar. 

Eugenics became a deeply influential doctrine in the 1920s – promulgated from pulpits and university lecture halls, popularized by human stock competitions known as “Fitter Families for Future Firesides,” and etched in legal codes that effectively barred entry to immigrants from most of the world and marked those at the margins of American society for planned extinction.  At its peak in the 1920s, the movement was in every way mainstream, packaged as a progressive quest for “healthy babies.” Its doctrines were not only popular and practiced, but codified by laws that severely restricted immigration and ultimately led to the institutionalization and sterilization of tens of thousands of American citizens.

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