The Leading Academic Racists of the Twentieth Century

Editor's Note: The twentieth century produced a bounty of academic
racists who openly declared the biological inferiority of black
people. Many of them were generously funded by Wickliffe Draper's
Pioneer Fund.

by William H. Tucker- Prof. of Psychology, Rutgers University

Unfortunately, the term "racist" is invoked all too frequently
and much too imprecisely, regularly applied to persons whose
only offense is to have taken a position believed to be disadvantageous
to what are perceived as blacks' interests. Like curse words,
which have become so common in contemporary society that we have
lost the power to shock, calling someone a racist loses the power
to generate moral outrage if it becomes the preferred descriptor
for every opponent of affirmative action. Over-usage has also
produced the strange situation in which both sides in some controversies
 such as the debate over Proposition 209 in California  call
their opponents racist.

In his recent book, Racism: A Short History, historian George
M. Fredrickson proposes the definition that I find most compelling.
He maintains that there are two components to racism, both of
which must be present for the term to be warranted: difference
and power. First is the belief that there are, in some personal
characteristics, innate differences between races that are permanent
and unbridgeable, defining a racial essence beyond the visible,
physical traits on which informal classifications are based.
Although such a view essentializes differences, by itself it
does not constitute racism.

Rather it is what Kwame Anthony Appiah refers to as racialism,
and although Appiah finds it a false doctrine, he concludes 
correctly, I believe  that racialism is "a cognitive rather
than a moral problem"; people can be wrong without being racist.
It is only when these essentialist racial categories become the
basis for social and political structures in which one group
dominates or excludes another, argues Fredrickson, that racialism
progresses to racism. The use of differences, perceived as hereditary
and hence immutable, to justify racial hierarchy is thus the
core of racism.

In a particularly remarkable insight, Fredrickson observes that
the development of egalitarian norms was a precondition for the
emergence of the phenomenon of racism. In societies committed
to revolutionary notions of freedom and human rights, some sort
of rationalization became necessary to deny to specific individuals
entitlements otherwise proclaimed to be universal. The most common
strategy for accomplishing this paradoxical result has been to
justify the exclusion of certain persons on the basis of some
unalterable deficiency in their nature.

Numerous academics have played an important role in this process
during the last century, not only proclaiming the existence of
racial differences in intellectual ability  and sometimes in
other traits as well  but also providing the intellectual authority
for the claim that, as a consequence of these differences, official
measures to dominate blacks or to exclude them from the society
or polity were both rational and necessary. It is the most notable
members of this group  the academic racists  that I wish to
describe briefly. Although I shall concentrate on their pronouncements
about blacks, it is unsurprising that many of them expressed
similarly objectionable views about Jews, a reminder that racism
and anti-Semitism are frequent traveling companions.

Leadership of the Pioneer Fund

Although all the other persons discussed here are scientists,
indisputably the most important academic racists in the twentieth
century have been the leaders of the Pioneer Fund, in particular
Wickliffe Preston Draper, the organization's founder, and Harry
Weyher, its president from 1958 until his death in 2002. Scion
of a wealthy manufacturing family, the multimillionaire Draper
was not himself a scholar  indeed, except for a brief period
of service as a high-ranking army officer, he never held a job
or had an occupation of any kind, devoting much of his life to
travel, hunting, and other outdoor activities. Nevertheless,
he became the most important source of financial support for
academic racists, both through direct contributions from his
own pocket and through grants from the fund that he created and
to which he left much of his fortune after his death in 1972.

During Draper's life most of his support for racists was kept
secret and has been revealed only recently. In the 1930s he provided
the resources for an attempt by Klansman Ernest Sevier Cox, founder
of the White America Society, to pass legislation that would
repatriate all blacks to Africa. In the 1960s Draper supplied
the funds for numerous segregationist initiatives in opposition
to the civil rights movement, including 85 percent of the money
for what the Washington Post called the "best-financed lobby"
up to that time  an official Mississippi organization created
solely to discredit and defeat the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While Draper was the deep pocket behind these activities, their
operation was often supervised and coordinated by Weyher, his
attorney and president of his fund, who surreptitiously disbursed
checks  gifts as well as grants  to scientists opposed to racial
equality and intent on convincing the public that blacks were
genetically less intelligent than whites.

With two exceptions, the persons described below all benefited
from Draper's or Pioneer's generosity, which, in one form or
another, has supported almost every scientific racist in the
second half of the twentieth century.

 William McDougall: Born and educated in England, where he became
a fellow of the Royal Society, McDougall came to the United States
in 1920 to become professor of psychology and chair of the department
at Harvard, spending the next eight years there before accepting
a professorship at Duke for the last decade of his life. Probably
the most important social psychologist of his day and the primary
exponent of the instinct school, McDougall maintained not only
that blacks were intellectually inferior but that they were instinctively
"submissive," making it quite appropriate for them to be dominated
by the bolder and more enterprising whites. The racial discrimination
and rigid segregation then in force in the South was thus merely
a manifestation of racial instincts, and Mc-Dougall had nothing
but praise for the Ku Klux Klan and other "sensible" white southerners
who refused to cooperate with the few meager federal attempts
to grant blacks greater rights.

In fact, McDougall believed more radical measures were necessary
to protect whites from the biological threat posed by the presence
of blacks. Half a century before South Africa instituted apartheid,
he recommended that blacks be confined to a separate territory
where they would have no contact with whites whatsoever. McDougall
also proposed an ethical system consistent with his scientific
conclusions. He argued that members of other races did not merit
the same degree of humane treatment or moral consideration that
whites rightly reserved for their own kind.

 Charles Benedict Davenport: A Harvard-educated geneticist,
member of the National Academy of Sciences, and director of the
Eugenics Record Office for three decades beginning in 1910, Davenport
was widely recognized as the most important single figure in
the eugenics movement during the first third of the century.
Believing that Anglo-Saxon world dominance was the fitting result
of its genetic superiority, Davenport was obsessed with the threat
to racial purity caused by "mongrelization"  the interbreeding
of Anglo-Saxons with southern and eastern European immigrants
as well as with blacks. His widely cited work explained that
the children of such mixtures would suffer from genetic disharmonies
caused by the inheritance of conflicting traits from their different
racial backgrounds. The most serious of these disharmonic mixtures,
he noted, occurred in the mulatto, who inherited an ambition
to achieve from the white parent but intellectual inadequacy
from the black, making the unhappy hybrid bitterly dissatisfied
with his own lot in life and a nuisance to others.

Supported by one of the first financial contributions from Wickliffe
Draper, who shared Davenport's concern over race mixture, the
geneticist supervised a famous study in Jamaica designed to determine
whether blacks in general and "hybrids" in particular possessed
the capacity to carry on a "white man's civilization," although
there was little doubt that he had decided on the conclusion
before any data had been gathered. Like many of the pre-war academic
racists, Davenport also admired the racial policies of the Third
Reich, which was similarly concerned about the dangers of race

 Harry Hamilton Laughlin: Trained in animal and plant biology,
Laughlin was second in command to Davenport at the Eugenics Record
Office, where he became the movement's most energetic public
lobbyist, instrumental in its two major legislative accomplishments.
He testified as an expert witness before the House Committee
on Immigration and Naturalization, influencing the 1924 Immigration
Restriction Act, and crafted the model involuntary sterilization
law eventually adopted by 30 states and the Third Reich. Also
obsessed with hybridization, Laughlin was particularly interested
in aiding the enforcement of southern "race integrity laws" by
developing techniques to detect light-skinned persons who were
passing for white.

More than any of the other pre-war scientific racists, Laughlin
was enamored of the Reich, praising a regime that did not hesitate
to translate science into policy as a model that the United States
should emulate, and reprinting speeches of high-ranking Nazi
officials in a journal he edited; his personal papers contained
lengthy handwritten lists of "Jew traits," containing almost
every known anti-Semitic stereotype. When Ernest Sevier Cox proposed
the repatriation of all blacks to Africa, Laughlin called him
a greater "savior" of his country than George Washington for
offering the only real solution to "the worst thing that ever
happened to the United States": the presence of blacks.

Indeed, archival correspondence suggests that Laughlin was instrumental
in first bringing Cox together with Wickliffe Draper, the source
of financial support for his repatriation campaign. When Draper
created the Pioneer Fund in 1937, he selected Laughlin to be
its first president, an appointment the biologist saw as an opportunity
to promote conservation of the nation's best racial stock and
prevent increase of the undesirable and unassimilable races.
To the man who considered Cox a hero and looked to the Reich
for inspiration there was little doubt who would fall into the
latter categories.

 Raymond B. Cattell: Probably the most prominent of the academic
racists, Cattell was a distinguished researcher, named sixteenth
in an American Psychological Association survey of the 100 most
eminent psychologists of the twentieth century, and particularly
well known for his contributions to personality theory and statistical
methodology. The author of some 55 books and more than 500 articles
in a scholarly career that lasted for 70 years until his death
in 1998, he was selected in 1997 to receive the prestigious American
Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement.
At the last moment, however, the honor was withheld pending the
report from an APA committee formed to investigate accusations
of racism in his work, and an ailing Cattell removed his name
from consideration, leading to outraged charges from his sympathizers
of political correctness run amok.

Whatever one may think of allowing sociopolitical factors to
influence scientific awards, there is no doubt that, throughout
his life, Cattell encouraged adoption of a system of scientifically
derived, racist ethics, of which most other psychologists were
unaware. Beginning in the 1930s he argued that, through such
peaceful measures as sterilization and confinement in reservations,
the more intelligent races had an obligation to eliminate the
"backward" races. Blacks, in particular, he cited as a group
that, for all their endearing qualities of humor and religiosity,
had made no contribution to progress and should be subjected
to euthanasia. Although his later writings were phased with less
candor, he continued to emphasize the necessity for the lower
races to give way to their betters and the importance of rigid
segregation to ensure that racial categories did not become blurred.
With Cattell's cooperation, his work became the intellectual
justification for Far Right activists who support a racial balkanization
of the United States.

 Henry E. Garrett: Chair of the psychology department at Columbia
University for many years, Garrett held a number of prominent
positions in his field during the 1940s: fellow of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, editor of the American
Psychology Series, and president at various times of the American
Psychological Association, the Eastern Psychological Association,
and the Psychometric Society. After the Brown decision overturned
segregated schools, however, Garrett returned to his home state
of Virginia, where, lavishly financed by Draper, he led the scientific
attack on the civil rights movement, calling blacks "savages"
who resembled a white European after frontal lobotomy.

A tireless polemicist for segregation, in addition to journal
articles Garrett churned out a series of pamphlets that were
distributed unsolicited to hundreds of thousands of teachers
and residents in northern suburban school districts. One pamphlet
was titled "Breeding Down"; another included photographs of a
smiling white schoolgirl with a group of cheerful black playmates
captioned, "Will YOUR child be exposed to THIS?" Garrett also
testified as one of the segregationists' expert witnesses in
two court cases financed by Draper  Stell v. Savannah-Chatham
Board of Education in Georgia and Evers v. Mize in Jackson, Mississippi
 both of which attempted to overturn Brown on the basis of scientific
evidence of blacks' intellectual inferiority. When the efforts
to prevent school integration failed, Garrett recommended that
blacks in "white schools" be treated so badly that they voluntarily
withdraw. When Draper died, Harry Weyher selected Garrett to
be his replacement on the five-member Pioneer board.

 R. Travis Osborne: Probably the least well known in this group,
Osborne has been a professor in the University of Georgia's department
of psychology since just after World War II, though he now has
emeritus status. Another scientist funded by Draper, Osborne
too was a witness in the legal attempts to overturn the Brown
decision on the basis of blacks' intellectual inferiority. In
addition, for many years he has been the director of the Foundation
for Human Understanding, an organization financed by Pioneer
mainly to publish and distribute literature, much of it opposing
the rights of blacks.

A typical FHU publication, America's Bimodal Crisis: Black Intelligence
in White Society, for example, went through three editions between
1985 and 1994. The pseudonymously authored book warned that blacks
cost employers more in theft, incompetence, and legal fees than
they contributed in productivity and that, because of their inability
to write, black doctoral candidates often had their dissertations
crafted by others. The book also maintained that the "underclass
black criminal" did not merit the same constitutional protections
as white criminals. In 2000 the 87-year-old Osborne was named
to the Pioneer board.

 Roger Pearson: An anthropologist born and educated in England
before coming to the United States in the early 1960s, the 75-year-old
Pearson was a disciple of Hans F.K. Gunther, widely regarded
as the Third Reich's official spokesperson on race. In England
in 1959 and again in Washington, D.C., two decades later, Pearson
attempted to organize a Nazi international, attracting sympathizers
from all over the world, some of them former Reich officials.
After publishing a number of unabashedly Nazi journals under
pseudonyms and holding a sequence of brief academic positions,
he founded the Institute for the Study of Man in Washington,
D.C., with himself as director.

Throughout his career Pearson carried on a campaign for the United
States to emulate the Nuremberg laws, denying the benefits of
citizenship to nonwhites. In books that he published at the institute
and in journals that he published, edited, and to which he was
often the major contributor under a variety of aliases, Pearson
has emphasized the importance of protecting the superior Nordic
gene pool. In his analysis this means not only that races should
be rigidly separated but that racial prejudice should be encouraged.
According to Pearson, it is a biological necessity and a mark
of "healthy-minded" people to repel and distrust members of other
races. While most of society finds Tiger Woods' racial mosaic
a reason to celebrate, Pearson has steadfastly maintained that
racial mixture is a "perversion" of natural instincts, similar
to animals from different breeds attempting to mate. Pearson
was the recipient of almost $2 million in grants from Pioneer
(adjusted for inflation) between 1973 and 2000.

 William Bradford Shockley: A member of the three-person team
that received the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics for inventing the
transistor, in the late 1960s Shockley turned his scientific
interest from his own professional field to behavior genetics.
As soon as his conclusion was publicized that blacks were intellectually
inferior, he found himself the recipient of substantial cash
gifts from Draper, quickly followed by grants from Pioneer. Although
Shockley himself never endorsed segregation, he provided the
blurb for one of the most radical segregationist pamphlets 
also published with Draper's financing  and then sent unsolicited
copies of the work to legislators and journalists with his personal

With the money he received from Draper and Pioneer, Shockley
carried out no real research, instead conducting a public relations
campaign consisting of press releases, media interviews, and
lecture tours. In an obvious attempt to influence public opinion,
he often declared that nature had "color-coded" groups of individuals
so that others could make reliable predictions of their ability
to lead "intellectually rewarding and effective lives." Employers'
refusal to hire blacks was thus neither irrational nor discriminatory,
according to Shockley, because "the pragmatic man-in-the-street
has had experience and knows what to expect from blacks." He
also announced a proposal in which persons with low IQs would
be paid for volunteering to be sterilized. When a journalist
compared Shockley's thinking to Nazi policy, the physicist brought
a $2.5 million libel suit. After an eight-day trial in 1984 the
jury found that Shockley had indeed been libeled and should be
compensated for the damage to his reputation. The jury believed
that fair compensation in this instance was one dollar.

 J. Philippe Rushton: A professor of psychology at the University
of Western Ontario, Rushton became infamous in social science
departments in late 1999 when tens of thousands of academic psychologists,
sociologists, and anthropologists throughout the United States
received unsolicited copies of his abridged pamphlet, Race, Evolution,
and Behavior, produced and distributed with Pioneer's financing.
In this brief work Rushton described African blacks through the
centuries as naked, dirty, impoverished, and unintelligent; in
the modern era he called their IQs the lowest ever recorded.

The pamphlet went on to explain that this appalling condition
was a consequence of evolutionary history, in which modern humans
first appeared in Africa but only some of them remained there
while others headed north, evolving into whites and Asians. To
cope with the demanding weather, the latter groups, according
to Rushton, developed genetic traits for greater self-control,
lower levels of sex hormones, higher intelligence, more complex
social organization, and greater family stability. In brief,
he concluded, blacks were genetically disposed to greater sexual
activity but less interest in parenting  more likely than other
races to be "cads" rather than "dads."

Clearly part of an attempt to influence public opinion about
race, publication of the pamphlet was announced at a press conference,
and a tearsheet offered bulk rates for distribution to media
figures and columnists who write about race. In addition, Rushton
was a regular speaker at American Renaissance conferences, a
group whose newsletter proclaimed that blacks were entitled only
to liberty, security, and the right to acquire property, but
not to such "phony" rights as the ballot, jury service, intermarriage,
equal accommodations, or access to jobs, housing, schools, and
public transportation. Rushton's speeches, featured in the newsletter,
provided scientific rationalization for the group's desperate
desire to reconstruct an American apartheid. When Harry Weyher,
president of the Pioneer Fund, died in March 2002, Rushton was
named to replace him.

A Final Word on Who Is Not Included

This brief survey omits some names well known for their claims
of innate intellectual differences between races. The major publishing
event of 1994, for example, was the appearance of The Bell Curve,
in which Harvard professor Richard Herrnstein  together with
his coauthor, conservative policy analyst Charles Murray  argued
that blacks are to some degree genetically less intelligent than
others. But despite the offensive tone of the book's concern
for the entitlements of "the people who count"  as Herrnstein
and Murray frankly describe what they call the "cognitive elite"
 the authors did not make the attempt to justify racial hierarchy
that is at the root of Fredrickson's definition of racism.

A much more complex case is that of Arthur Jensen, the Berkeley
psychologist who has been described in the (London) Times Higher
Education Supplement as the "grandfather of modern scientific
racism." A recipient of more than $2 million (adjusted for inflation)
in Pioneer grants in the last 30 years, Jensen is well aware
of the underlying agenda of those who have financed his research
and has relentlessly pressed the case for genetic differences
in intelligence between races in popular as well as scientific
publications, thus getting the exposure for the issue that Pioneer
desires; even some well-known psychologists who praise Jensen's
scholarship have expressed puzzlement over his missionary zeal.

On the other hand, he has emphasized the importance of making
all decisions on the basis of individual qualities and merits,
and has generally avoided suggesting any policy implications
that might be drawn from his work (though he has offered no objection
when others have done so). While I believe that this reluctance
to speculate on policy means that the second of Fredrickson's
two components is lacking, there is certainly an argument to
be made that Jensen's close association with Pioneer  which
is composed largely of persons who do want to (re)create racial
hierarchy  suggests otherwise. In any event, I have omitted
him from the above list.