Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
2022 to 2023
NEH Postdoctoral Fellow
Measuring Miscegenation: Eugenic Race-Crossing Studies and the Legacies of Slavery
Interracial sex between Blacks and whites predated the formation of the United States, yet early twentieth-century eugenicists framed it as a newly emerging threat. They struggled to identify “mulattoes” for study due to heavy taboos around racial intermixture, leading some, like Charles B. Davenport, to look to former slave colonies of the Anglophone Caribbean for research subjects. My current book project, Measuring Miscegenation: Eugenic Race-Crossing Studies and the Legacies of Slavery examines eugenicists’ efforts to define people of African descent as inherently unfit. As I argue in my book, to study the racial fitness of “mulattoes” was to grapple with a “racial hybrid” whose existence was tethered to slavery. In sum, slavery and its afterlives laid the groundwork for the development of a kind of anti-Black race science that would go on to inform eugenicists’ research trajectories and give credence to the enduring and faulty idea that race is biology.