Campbell Law School to host lecture series on eugenics

February 1, 2012 | Leave a Comment

RALEIGH – Campbell Law School will host a three-month lecture series on eugenics – a controversial movement in the early 20th Century aimed at "improving the genetic composition of a population." 

“Eugenics in America – History and Legacy” will feature several prominent legal scholars and historians offering a thorough and frank exploration into the history of eugenics in the United States. The series is open to the public.

The lecture series is slated to begin on Feb. 15 at 11:45 a.m. with a screening of “The Lynchburg Story.” The film dissects the early history of the eugenics programs in the 1930s and 1940s by focusing on the Lynchburg colony in Virginia, where over 8,000 children were forcibly sterilized. The event is sponsored by the Campbell Law School Christian Legal Society.

Following on Feb. 22, Dr. Phillip Thompson, Emory University Executive Director of the Aquinas Center of Theology, will speak at the law school at 11:45 a.m. A Catholic ethicist and historian of religion and science, Thompson will speak on the case of Buck v. Bell, which authorized states to engage in eugenics programs. His visit is sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society.

Campbell Law professors Lynn Buzzard, Amy Flanary-Smith and Jon Powell will also participate in a panel discussion with Dr. Thompson.

On March 21 at 11:45 a.m., the Black Lawyer Student Association and the Public Interest Law Society will sponsor University of Maryland College of Education Professor Steven Selden. Selden has written extensively on the history of the American eugenics movement. His most recent book, “Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America,” received the Gustavus Meyer Award for books contributing to anti-racist thought.

The Health Care Law Society and the Jewish Law Students Association will jointly host University of Wisconsin Law School Burrus-Bascum Professor of Law Victoria F. Nourse on March 30 at 11:45 a.m. Professor Nourse recently published a much-talked-about book, “In Reckless HandsSkinner v. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of Eugenics,” in which she examined Oklahoma’s attempt to ameliorate crime by the mandatory sterilization of repeat-offenders. With this case, the Supreme Court ended forced sterilization as a punitive sentence.

The series was organized by Campbell Law School Professor Kevin P. Lee, a legal scholar with advanced degrees in Christian ethics, religious studies, philosophy and religion.

“These lectures explore the brute facts about the eugenics movement in America,” said Lee. “They remind us of the dangers to humanity posed by the advances in technology and scientific knowledge. This topic forces us to question the intrinsic worth and dignity of all people, as well as what to make of our own failings and past injustices.”

A hot-button issue in the state of North Carolina, Campbell Law has invited numerous members of the state legislature, including Gov. Beverly Perdue, North Carolina Speaker of the House of Representatives Thom Tillis and members of the North Carolina Eugenics Compensation Task Force.

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