Two talks exploring eugenics in the United States and the American Communist Party
Free | Drop in
For the Greater Good: the Eugenic Past of the United States
Though eugenics is now most often associated with Nazi Germany, in the early twentieth century the United States also attempted to improve the genetic makeup of its citizens through ‘better breeding.’ While this included seemingly benign efforts such as ‘fitter family’ contests, eugenic themes in popular media, and propaganda encouraging ‘hygienic marriage’, it also extended to the detention and forcible sterilisation of people judged unfit to reproduce. Sara Taylor examines the history of this movement and its impact on the lives of ordinary people.
American Communist Party Pamphlets and the Struggle to be American, 1936–1945
The Communist Party of America was founded in 1919. With its mostly immigrant composition and its foundations in Russian Bolshevism, it seemed acutely alien to American society and initially struggled with what made it a distinctly ‘American’ party. In the late 1930s it began forming coalitions across the left-liberal spectrum in an attempt to insert itself into mainstream political life. Under Earl Browder, the Party’s new slogan – ‘Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism’ – dominated party literature. For the next few years, the Party portrayed itself as being as American as apple pie, so much so that its propaganda in some cases became unrecognisable as ‘Marxist’ literature. Significant membership gains were made throughout the 1930s as a result, but in pursuing popular Americanism, did the Party sacrifice its Marxist identity? Jodie Collins explores how the Party’s pamphlets convey its struggle to be ‘American’ to the public, and the gains and sacrifices made by the Party in doing so.
Sara Taylor’s novels explore the social construction of identity, sexuality, and family; her academic work deals with the effect of extralegal censorship on the US education system. She also acts as co-director and editor of creative-critical publisher Seam Editions. She is a 2019 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award winner.
Jodie Collins is in the second year of her collaborative PhD between the University of Sussex and the British Library. Her research examines the use of pamphlets and pamphleteering, primarily by Communists in America, 1919-1945. Her aim is to create a webspace that will promote the British Library's American political pamphlets to researchers, students and the public.
The Summer Scholars season of free lunchtime talks explores the broad and exciting range of research being conducted in the North American collections at the British Library by Eccles Centre Fellows and Award winners. Tea and coffee will be served and attendees are welcome to bring their lunch.