Skip to Main Content
Everyone (Public)

Race Hygiene: Eugenics, Black Public Health, and Structural Inequality with Ayah Nurridin, Princeton University

As part of a multi-faceted approach to struggles for racial justice, African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century embraced the possibilities of eugenics for achieving racial equality. I argue that they mobilized what I call black eugenics, which I define as a hereditarian approach to racial uplift that emphasized social reform, public health, and reproductive control as strategies of biological racial improvement. African Americans were interested in using eugenics to challenge ideas of racial susceptibility to disease, particularly to infectious diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis. They were also invested in challenging beliefs that African Americans were inherently susceptible to forms of insanity. These assumptions about racial susceptibility were rooted in a long history of racial science that marked African American bodies as diseased and depraved. By crafting their own public health and mental health interventions, African American physicians, scholars, and reformers embraced a vision of eugenics that argued for better environmental conditions, education, and access to health care as ways to biologically uplift the race. In doing so, they sought to disprove that racial susceptibility was an inherent quality of the race. This would show that eugenically inflected public health and mental health work could improve the collective stock of the race and ultimately its future.

Hosted by the History of Science & Medicine and SHEA (STEM & Health Equity Advocates).

Yale students, faculty and staff may attend in person. All others may join via Zoom.

Location: Humanities Quadrangle – HQ, 320 York St., Room 276

Topic: Ayah Nuriddin, HSHM Colloquium/SHEA lecture, Oct. 14th

Time: Oct 14, 2021 03:45 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

Password: 134845

Meeting ID: 957 8795 0609

International numbers available:


Host Organization




Lectures and Seminars