Baker – Anthropology & Social Darwinism (selections)

The “American School” of Anthropology &
The Ascension of Anthropology as Social Darwinism

by Lee D. Baker

[Baker, Lee D. 1998. “The ‘American School’ of Anthropology” and “The Ascension of Anthropology as Social Darwinism” in From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896–1954. University of California Press. Pg. 14-17 & 26-31.]

Points & Quotes:

in The “American School” of Anthropology (Ch 1.)

“Until the mid-nineteenth century most scientists explained racial inferiority in terms of the “savages'” fall from grace or of their position in the “Great Chain of Being.” The idea of monogenesis — that Negroes were fully human — was integral to both paradigms. U.S. scientists, however, revived earlier ideas of polygenesis — multiple origins of the human species — in the wake of the growing antislavery forces and slave revolts.”

“Science successfully eclipsed religious and folk beliefs about racial inferiority once the physicians and naturalists established the so-called scientific fact of Negro inferiority. From the mid-nineteenth century on, science provided the bases for the ideological elements of a comprehensive worldview summed up in the term race.”

“There has always been a social construct of race in the United States, at the least since theConstitution was ratified. …
“People experience every day the ways in which categories of race are signified and reified socially, structurally, and culturally (symbolically), in terms that range from the intrapersonal to the supranational. The way people are forced to negotiate racial categories, and the terms by which racial categories form, however, change over time …
“Although I argue that early ethnologists helped to solidify the construct of race during the 1890s, I also argue that the appropriation of the Boasian discourse on race by the NAACP during the litigation that culminated in Brown helped to construct a different meaning for racial categories.”

in The Ascension of Anthropology as Social Darwinism (Ch. 2)

“Although expansion created wealth and prosperity for some, it contributed to conditions that fostered rampant child labor, infectious disease, and desperate poverty …
“The daily experience of squalid conditions and sheer terror made many Americans realize the contradictions between industrial capitalism and the democratic ideals of equality, freedom, and justice for all. Legislators, university boards, and magazine moguls found it useful to explain this ideological crisis in terms of a natural hierarchy of class and race caused by a struggle for existence wherein the fittest individuals or races advanced while the inferior became eclipsed.”

“Although ideas of racial inferiority and social evolution were not new to the United States, Social Darwinist ideas became increasingly dominant because they were viewed as scientific in an era when science reigned supreme.”

“The principal tenet of Spencer’s synthetic philosophy was the organic analogy, an analogy drawn between biological organisms and society. The principles of biology, he argued, could be applied to society. …
“Even before Darwin’s Origin of Species, Spencer had worked out the basic elements for evolution. It was Spencer, not Darwin, who furnished the two famous phrases that became associated with the notion of evolution: “survival of the fittest” and “the struggle for existence.”

“Spencer .. suggested, “Intellectual evolution, as it goes on in the human race [goes] along with social evolution, of which it is at once a cause and a consequence.” Within this evolutionary hierarchy, the most inferior were the savages; the next up the ladder were the semi-civilized, and finally we reached the civilized men.”

Terms:

monogenesis—humans all come from a single species (prevailing scientific consensus)

polygenesis—multiple origins of the human species (e.g. superior & inferior races, etc.)

Annotation Summary for Ch 1 and 2 of From Savage to Negro

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The “American School” of Anthropology”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” Until themid-nineteenth century most scientists explained racial inferiority in terms of the”savages'” fall from grace or of their position in the “Great Chain of Being.” Theidea of monogenesis — that Negroes were fully human — was integral to bothparadigms. U.S. scientists, however, revived earlier ideas of polygenesis — multipleorigins of the human species — in the wake of the growing antislavery forces andslave revolts. “

Page 1, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Until the mid-nineteenth century most scientists explained racial inferiority in terms of the “savages'” fall from grace or of their position in the “Great Chain of Being.” The idea of monogenesis — that Negroes were fully human — was integral to both paradigms. U.S. scientists, however, revived earlier ideas of polygenesis — multiple origins of the human species — in the wake of the growing antislavery forces and slave revolts.”

Page 1, Highlight (Yellow):
Content: “monogenesis”

Page 1, Highlight (Yellow):
Content: “polygenesis”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The proponents of these arguments eclipsed the single-origin thesis prior to and following the Civil War, even after Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) should have abated them.9 The first American anthropologists advanced the polygenesis thesis within the highly politicized antebellum period, and these efforts were aimed at setting Negroes apart from Whites and defining the Negro’s place in nature. The most influential scholars of this school were Samuel Morton, Josiah Nott, and Louis Agassiz.”

Page 1, Underline (Red):
Content: “Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859)”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Samuel Morton was a Philadelphia physician who also taught anatomy tomedical students. He curated, for his private use, one of the world’s foremostcollections of human skulls. “

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Morton linked cranial capacity with moral and intellectual endowments and assembled a cultural ranking scheme that placed the large-brained Caucasoid at the pinnacle.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Charleston Medical Journal after his death in 1851: “We can only say that we of the South should consider him [Morton] as our benefactor, for aiding most materially in giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race.”10”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “”10 Josiah Nott was trained by Morton and was another physician whocontributed to the original American school of anthropology. “

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” and desperately believed that Negroes and Whites were separate species.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” Nott advanced theories that were used widely to continuethe enslavement of African Americans. One of the most pervasive was the idea thatNegroes were like children who needed direction, discipline, and the parentlike careof a master. Negroes, he argued, were better off enslaved because this imposed atleast a modicum of civilized culture. “

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “in 1854, Nott and George Gliddon compiled the available anthropological data on species variations for Types of Mankind, a celebrated book with ten editions by the end of the century.”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “Types of Mankind”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Chief Justice Roger B. Taney”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “decreed that all African Americans (enslaved or free) had no rights as citizensunder the U.S. Constitution. “

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Taney framed his argument by detailing how “farbelow” Negroes were from Whites “in the scale of created beings,” in effectconstitutionalizing the racial ideology articulated by the scientific discourse and theopinion of proslavery interests.12 “

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The third and most prominent contributor to this American school ofanthropology was the Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz. “

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In 1846 he was invited to join the faculty of Harvard University, where he developed an interest in the origins of the human species. Initially he advanced the single-origin or monogenesis approach. After four years in the racially charged antebellum climate, however, he underwent a conversion that led him to believe Negroes were a separate species altogether.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Agassiz had his first encounter with African Americans in a hotel in Philadelphia, and he was disturbed by their features. When a Black waiter approached his table, he wanted to flee. “What unhappiness for the white race,” he exclaimed, “to have tied their existence a] degraded and degenerate race.”13”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “He trained virtually all of the prominent U.S. professors of natural history during the second half of the nineteenth century.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “the original American school of anthropology not only helped to shape the first generation of academic anthropologists but also gave scientific authority to proslavery forces.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Science successfully eclipsed religious and folk beliefs about racial inferiorityonce the physicians and naturalists established the so-called scientific fact of Negroinferiority. From the mid-nineteenth century on, science provided the bases for theideological elements of a comprehensive worldview summed up in the term race.”

Page 3, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Science successfully eclipsed religious and folk beliefs about racial inferiority once the physicians and naturalists established the so-called scientific fact of Negro inferiority. From the mid-nineteenth century on, science provided the bases for the ideological elements of a comprehensive worldview summed up in the term race.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “ideological elements of a comprehensive worldview summed up in the term race. Audrey Smedley contends that the cultural construction of race only reached “full development in the latter half of the nineteenth century,” when “the legal apparatus of the United States and various state governments conspired”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “with science to legitimize this structural inequality by sanctioning it in law.”14”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “cience to legitimize this structural inequality by sanctioning it in law.”14 My research begins at precisely this historic juncture. I do not suggest aconspiracy, but I do demonstrate that members of Congress used earlyanthropological studies to justify legislation that structured racial inequality. I beginwith this particular convergence of politics and science in the 1890s because thisperiod was quite literally a defining moment in the history of both racial formationand university-based anthropology in the United States.15”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I suggest that there has always been a social construct of race in the United States, at the least since the Constitution was ratified.”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “there hasalways been a social construct of race in the United States, at the least since theConstitution was ratified. “

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I suggest that a social construct of race can exist without having, as Smedleysuggests, a comprehensive worldview in which the ideological ingredients form ashared cosmological ordering system. “

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” By proposing that at every moment in theracial formation process there is a construct of race, I mean that people experienceevery day the ways in which categories of race are signified and reified socially,structurally, and culturally (symbolically), in terms that range from the intrapersonalto the supranational. “

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “people experienceevery day the ways in which categories of race are signified and reified socially,structurally, and culturally (symbolically), in terms that range from the intrapersonalto the supranational. The way people are forced to negotiate racial categories, andthe terms by which racial categories form, however, change over time”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The way people are forced to negotiate racial categories, and the terms by which racial categories form, however, change over time. Given the dialogical nature of racial formation, I recognize that using the noun construct presents a logical problem because various groups, individual people, or institutions have always engaged in challenging or protecting the meaning of racial categories, thereby helping to construct the meaning of racial categories. I use the term both ways. Although I argue that early ethnologists helped to solidify the construct of race during the 1890s, I also argue that the appropriation of the Boasian discourse on race by the NAACP during the litigation that culminated in Brown helped to construct a different meaning for racial categories.”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Although I argue that early ethnologists helped to solidify the construct of race during the 1890s, I also argue that the appropriation of the Boasian discourse on race by the NAACP during the litigation that culminated in Brown helped to construct a different meaning for racial categories.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Chapter 2 The Ascension of Anthropology as Social Darwinism”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Chapter 2 The Ascension of Anthropology as Social Darwinism”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The rise of academic anthropology in the United States occurred in the late1880s and was concurrent with the rise of American imperialism and theinstitutionalization of racial segregation and disfranchisement. And like theanthropology that bolstered proslavery forces during the antebellum period,professional anthropology bolstered Jim Crow and imperial conquests during the1890s.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Before the 1880s the study of anthropology — or ethnology, as it was also called — tended to be an ancillary interest of naturalists and a romantic pastime for physicians interested in the so-called races of mankind.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Following the Civil War, universities and government agencies quickly established departments of geography, physics, and geology when the proliferation of industries like railroads, steel, and mining demanded new technology.2 Capitalists began to extol the virtues of science because it was the backbone for the development of technology, so important to the material ends of industrial development.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Although expansion created wealth and prosperity for some, it contributed to conditions that fostered rampant child labor, infectious disease, and desperate poverty. As well, this period saw a sharp increase in lynchings and the decimation of Native American lives and land.3”

Page 6, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Although expansion created wealth and prosperity for some, it contributed to conditions that fostered rampant child labor, infectious disease, and desperate poverty.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The daily experience of squalid conditions and sheer terror made many Americans realize the contradictions between industrial capitalism and the democratic ideals of equality, freedom, and justice for all. Legislators, university boards, and magazine moguls found it useful to explain this ideological crisis in terms of a natural hierarchy of class and race caused by a struggle for existence wherein the fittest individuals or races advanced while the inferior became eclipsed.”

Page 6, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Legislators, university boards, and magazine moguls found it useful to explain this ideological crisis in terms of a natural hierarchy of class and race caused by a struggle for existence wherein the fittest individuals or races advanced while the inferior became eclipsed.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Professional anthropology emerged in the midst of this crisis, and the people who used anthropology to justify racism, in turn, provided the institutional foundations for the field.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The budding discipline gained power and prestige because ethnologists articulated theory and research that resonated with the dominant discourse on race.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The Laws of Science and the Law of the Land”

Page 6, Underline (Blue):
Content: “The Laws of Science and the Law of the Land”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In January 1896 Daniel G. Brinton, the president of the AAAS and the firstprofessor of anthropology in the United States, wrote in Popular Science Monthlythat “the black, the brown and the red races differ anatomically so much from thewhite … that even with equal cerebral capacity they never could rival its results byequal efforts.”6 “

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” John Wesley Powell, the first director ofthe Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) at the Smithsonian Institution”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “explained that “the laws of evolution do not produce kinds of menbut grades of men; and human evolution is intellectual, not physical…. All menhave pleasures, some more, some less; all men have welfare, some more, some less;all men have justice, some more, some less.”7 “

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” the U.S.Supreme “

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” Court’s majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “stated that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.”8”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Although ideas of racial inferiority and social evolution were not new to the United States, Social Darwinist ideas became increasingly dominant because they were viewed as scientific in an era when science reigned supreme.”

Page 7, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Although ideas of racial inferiority and social evolution were not new to the United States, Social Darwinist ideas became increasingly dominant because they were viewed as scientific in an era when science reigned supreme.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Herbert Spencer, one of its chiefproponents, grafted Thomas Hobbes’s notion that the state of nature was a state ofwar — each individual taking what it could — onto Adam Smith’s system of perfectliberty, later known as laissez-faire economics.11 After Darwin’s Origin of Speciesappeared, Social Darwinists blurred the idea of natural selection to scrutinizesociety and culture.12 “

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Proponents of Social Darwinism believed that it was morally wrong for the government and charity organizations to provide public education, public health, or a minimum wage because these efforts only contributed to the artificial preservation of the weak.13”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Two trajectories or planks emerged within Social Darwinian rhetoric in the United States. One emphasized the personal or individual struggle for existence; the other, racial and cultural evolution. The racial plank”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “demarcated a hierarchy of races beginning with the inferior savage and culminating with the civilized citizen. The class plank presumed that the poor were biologically unfit to struggle for existence.”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” By 1896 the oldideas about Manifest Destiny, industrial progress, and racial inferiority (enlivenedby Social Darwinism) served as an ideological cement that was able to formcapitalist development, imperialism, scientific progress, racism, and the law into arock-solid edifice within U.S. society. Social Darwinian ideas helped explaininequality in America, but Herbert Spencer’s voluminous writings gave it scientificauthority. “

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Herbert Spencer, America’s Social Darwinist (1820–1903)”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The principal tenet of Spencer’s synthetic philosophy was the organic analogy, an analogy drawn between biological organisms and society. The principles of biology, he argued, could be applied to society.”

Page 8, Underline (Blue):
Content: “The principal tenet of Spencer’s synthetic philosophy was the organic analogy, an analogy drawn between biological organisms and society. The principles of biology, he argued, could be applied to society.”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Even before Darwin’s Origin of Species, Spencer had worked out the basic elements for evolution. It was Spencer, not Darwin, who furnished the two famous phrases that became associated with the notion of evolution: “survival of the fittest” and “the struggle for existence.””

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “”the persistence of force.””

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The universe, as Spencer envisioned it, evolved from a state of homo-“

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “geneity to one of heterogeneity.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “sociology and psychology are extensions of biology, which are extensions of geology, astronomy, and physics.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Spencer”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “suggested, “Intellectual evolution, as it goes on in the human race [goes] along with social evolution, of which it is at once a cause and a consequence.”20 Within this evolutionary hierarchy, the most inferior were the savages; the next up the ladder were the semi-civilized, and finally we reached the civilized men.”

Page 9, Underline (Blue):
Content: “”Intellectual evolution, as it goes on in the human race [goes] along with social evolution, of which it is at once a cause and a consequence.”20 Within this evolutionary hierarchy, the most inferior were the savages; the next up the ladder were the semi-civilized, and finally we reached the civilized men.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Spencer confidently ranked andordered racial-cultural groups while detailing his familiar argument about thenatural progress of societies. The labels he assigned to different people wereconcoctions of religions, continents, races, or languages, and he argued thatanthropologists should thus prove whether his hierarchy was consistentlymaintained throughout all orders of races, from the lowest to the highest,”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Spencer asserted, with the conviction of a scientific law, that racial-cultural inferiority and superiority exist.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Spencer took his place in the long line of philosophers and scholars to scientifically affirm the association of black with evil, savagery, and brutishness, thus recapitulating the widely held idea that the lighter”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “races are superior to the darker ones.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Anthropological Social Darwinists”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The discipline of anthropology in 1896 was being carved out of varioussciencesand studies. The scope of the new discipline varied. Powell envisioned it asencompassing just about everything including somatology, esthetology, sociology,philology, and sophiology. The most significant scholars in the development of thefield called themselves ethnologists, but for some time no real consensus existed asto what constituted ethnology. Brinton perhaps best captured the aim of the newscience. Ethnology was to “compare dispassionately all the acts and arts of man, hisphilosophies and religions, his social schemes and personal plans, weighing andanalyzing them, separating the local and temporal in them from the permanent andgeneral, explaining the former by the conditions of time and place and the latter to”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “the category of qualities which make up the oneness of humanity.”25”

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