|Science for Segregation: Race, Law
and the Case against Brown v. Board of Education
By John P. Jackson
New York University Press, 2005
291 pp.; $45.00 (soft cover)
History is written by the victors, and this is as true of social movements as it is of war. Most histories therefore treat the process of American racial integration as a sustained campaign of moral superiority that was held up by violent spasms of bigotry, but faced no thoughtful or respectable resistance. Names like Carleton Putnam or Henry Garrett, court cases like Stell v. Savannah and Evers v. Jackson have almost entirely disappeared from the record, leaving “Bull” Connor and his snarling police dogs as the only recognizable symbols of resistance.
Science for Segregation is steeped in the mentality of the victors — the author calls arguments for segregation a “gospel of hate” — but it does take the trouble to look carefully into the work of scientists and intellectuals who resisted Brown v. Board, and who tried to preserve the traditions of the South. John Jackson, who teaches at the University of Colorado, seems to have consulted the papers of a number of prominent segregationists, and when he is not denouncing their motives seems to summarize their positions reasonably accurately. The result is a predictably slanted, but nevertheless very useful account of the work of an entire school of thought of which even race realists are generally ignorant.
Perhaps because Arthur Jensen is still so active and highly regarded, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that American racial thought was a desert of egalitarianism from the 1930s until his famous Harvard Educational Review article in 1969. Prof. Jackson demonstrates that this was by no means the case.
It was the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision, which ruled segregated schools unconstitutional, that galvanized the segregationists. In fact, until that time there was little threat to Southern traditions, whether in schools or at work. Under Jim Crow, there was no need for carefully elaborated racial science; Southern whites preferred to live apart from blacks and no one could interfere legally with that preference.
When Brown was decided, Southerners fought back on two fronts. The most common battlefield was Constitutional: It was common to argue that Brown had overstepped the bounds of federalism, and that the court was trampling states’ rights. This was the position endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Southern senators and congressmen who signed the “Southern Manifesto” denouncing Brown. Their most prominent spokesmen were Senators Richard Russell of Georgia and Harry Byrd of Virginia.
There was, however, a group that based its positions on science — on the evidence that the races are not equal — and argued that segregation had to be defended on biological grounds rather than by appeals to federalism. There was no more eloquent or dedicated advocate of this view than Carleton Putnam. Even Prof. Jackson appears to have a grudging respect for Putnam’s commitment to the “gospel of hate,” and if this book can be said to have a hero it is certainly Putnam.
A proud Yankee descended from Revolutionary War general Israel Putnam, Carleton Putnam originally made his name in the airline business, serving both as chairman and board member of Delta Airlines, from its founding in 1953 until his death in 1998. He was also an admirer of Theodore Roosevelt, and in 1958 completed the first of a projected three-volume biography. Despite critical acclaim, Putnam set aside Roosevelt for a more important cause: fighting racial egalitarianism. He could not understand how anyone could fail to see recognize differences, and he devoted the rest of his life to emphasizing their importance.
Putnam first took a position after Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to integrate Little Rock High School in 1957. His “Open Letter to the President” was immensely popular in the South, where it was reprinted in many newspapers. In 1961, he followed this success with Race and Reason, which remains to this day one of the most lucid, persuasive treatments of racial differences and what they mean for society. Much of the work of the Southern resistance of the 1960s is dated; not Race and Reason. Putnam’s insights and parallels are as fresh today as they were 45 years ago.
Although it is difficult to imagine such a thing today, Mississippi and Virginiamade Race and Reason part of their high school curricula. Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi even declared October 26, 1961 “Race and Reason Day,” and invited Putnam to Jackson to give a major address, in which Putnam emphasized that it was futile to defend Southern traditions in the name of states’ rights. It was science, not the Constitution, that would protect whites from miscegenation.
Putnam was such a force, and had so obviously captured the mood of the South that academic associations felt compelled to condemn him. The first to do so was the American Anthropological Association, which, in November 1961, voted 192-0 to “repudiate statements now appearing in the United States that Negroes are biologically and in inherent mental ability inferior to whites.” Putnam was the clear but unnamed target.
The next year the American Association of Physical Anthropologists voted to “deplore the misuse of science to advocate racism.” The president of the association and chairman of the meeting that passed the vote was Carleton Coon, who taught at the University of Pennsylvania and was the author of The Story of Man and The Origin of Races. He and Putnam were kinsmen, and agreed on many matters. Coon asked how many of the assembled anthropologists had read the book they were condemning; only one raised his hand. Later Coon wrote: “There they were, some of them old and trusted friends, apparently as brainwashed as Pavlov’s puppies. . . . I told my fellow members that I would no longer preside over such a craven lot, and resigned from the presidency.”
From this point, Putnam threw himself into a campaign to overturn the Brown decision. The Supreme Court had based its decision on faulty information: blacks and white were not equal, and segregation did not harm blacks psychologically. He was convinced that if the facts were put before federal judges, they would use their talent for sifting evidence to expose the Supreme Court’s error.
Accordingly, he played a key behind-the-scenes role in the 1963 case of Stell v. Savannah-Chatham Board of Education, which did exactly what Putnam had hoped for: line up a blue-ribbon panel of scientists to present the facts about race, and thereby expose the faulty reasoning of Brown. Each of the six men who testified as expert witnesses was deeply involved in the fight against egalitarianism, and are some of the central characters in Prof. Jackson’s book. Today they are largely unknown, but they deserve, like Carleton Putnam, to be honored for their important contributions to a proper understanding of the significance of race.
Wesley Critz George (18881982) was professor of anatomy at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and had been a strong opponent of racial mixing long before the Brown decision. He was a prominent scientist who recognized both that social science was ignoring biology and that biology itself was being increasingly purged of race. As early as 1952, in his presidential address to the North Carolina Academy of Sciences, he warned that political views were diverging ominously from biological facts. After Brown, he became politically active, running an organization called Patriots of North Carolina that helped defeat two North Carolina congressmen who had not signed the “Southern Manifesto.” As he pointed out in 1955, “There is already enough knowledge available to show the folly of [the Brown] decision. Our problem is to get that knowledge presented in impressive form and disseminated to the public to counteract the sophistry of the integrationists.” During the Stell trial, he gave convincing testimony on the biology of racial differences.
Robert Kuttner (19281987), who taught anthropology at the University of Connecticut, was a sworn enemy of Ashley Montagu and his famous UNESCO statements that denied racial differences. He particularly opposed Montagu’s claim that people have feelings of “universal brotherhood,” calling this “the ravings of a lunatic.” He wrote that given the weight of the evidence, “It is easier to believe that the Negro does not rank with the white race than to believe that every society that has contact with him has judged him unfairly.” He, too, testified on racial differences at the Stell trial, and later went on to testify before Congress against passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Henry Garrett (18941973) was likewise a distinguished university professor, who was head of the psychology department of Columbia from 1941 until his retirement in 1955. He was president of the American Psychological Association in 1946, and in the trials that led up to the Supreme Court’s Brown decision, he was the most prominent academic to testify in favor of segregation. He once wrote, “Despite glamorized accounts to the contrary, the history of Black Africa over the past 5,000 years is largely a blank.” In the 1960s, as it became clear that the country was going in an egalitarian direction, he gave up trying to influence the elites: “[T]he rank-and-file intelligent white is our best bet for reversing the tide. . . . The ordinary white man who is called to eat and live with the Bantu is the one who balks: he knows personally what ‘integration’ means.” In Stell he testified about the validity and importance of intelligence testing.
Also on the witness list was psychoanalyst Ernest van den Haag (19142002), who was born in Holland, and was closely associated with National Review before William Buckley went soft on race. His testimony centered on Kenneth Clark’s misleading doll tests that so impressed the Supreme Court in Brown (See “Brown v. Board: The Real Story,” AR, July 2004). Van den Haag even went on to testify in defense of apartheid in a 1966 trial at the International Court of Justice, but eventually gave up on the race question. By the 1970s, his main interest had shifted to defending capital punishment.
R. Travis Osborne (1913) began teaching at University of Georgia in 1946, and was appointed director of the university’s Counseling and Testing Center in 1947. He was granted Pioneer Fund money to do large-scale testing of black and white twins, which underlined the largely heritable nature of the race difference in IQ. He, too, testified about intelligence testing, and was still publishing important work on race and IQ in the 1980s.
One of his close colleagues in later years, Frank C. J. McGurk (19101995), also gave evidence on IQ testing. McGurk was a clinical psychologist who first became interested in the race question in 1938, when he noticed that a large number of the black children passing through the juvenile court system were, by white standards, mentally retarded. He first published on racial differences in 1943, and gathered much important data when he served in a special training unit for blacks in the US Army. He also taught at West Point and Villanova, and continued writing about race and intelligence into the 1980s.
Today, it is not easy to imagine scholars and experts testifying in open court about why racial differences justify school segregation. Interestingly, the NAACP, which represented the integrationist view, did not call its own experts to oppose the testimony. For Brown, it had made a point of trying to load the case with as much social science as possible. In Stell, the NAACP simply moved to strike the expert testimony as irrelevant in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Now that the law was on their side, blacks had no interest in doll studies, learning rates, or anything else.
The presiding judge, Frank M. Scarlett, who was known to favor segregated schooling anyway, duly found that the Brown decision had been based on incorrect facts, and that it was a reasonable use of state power to separate students on the basis of race. This amounted to a trial judge telling the Supreme Court it had got things wrong, and that he would ignore its ruling. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals quickly overturned Scarlett’s decision, arguing that in light of Brown, segregated schools were unconstitutional, and that Scarlett’s job was to determine whether schools were segregated and to order integration if they were.
The race-realist team appealed the Fifth Circuit decision to the Supreme Court, but it refused to take the case. Carleton Putnam reflected the disappointment of many when he wrote: “The appeal to truth, the levy upon honor, had failed.”
There was one more attempt to fight integration in the courts. In 1964, the NAACP sued in Jackson, Mississippi, to integrate the schools, and Judge Sidney Mize allowed expert evidence in support of segregation. Many of the men who testified in Stell once more took the stand. By then the Fifth Circuit decision had been handed down, and Mize could not stop integration no matter what the evidence. He left his sentiments clearly on the record, however, noting that the evidence presented to the Supreme Court was “unworthy of belief” — a “misleading concealment” of the truth — and that “the facts . . ‘cry out’ for a reappraisal and complete reconsideration” of Brown. Rarely do lower courts write in such terms about recent Supreme Court decisions.
Some day, a company charged with racial discrimination will present expert testimony to explain that differences in ability rather than discrimination explain why there are so few blacks in management. Until that day comes, the 1964 case of Evers v. Jackson will have been the last time the facts about race and IQ had their day in court. It is worth recalling that in both Stell and Evers, the facts were persuasive. There is no reason to think that with the accumulation of 40 more years of research, they would not be even more persuasive.
Many of the men who testified in the desegregation cases were affiliated with an organization known as the International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics (IAAEE), which was organized in 1959. Among the people who attended its first meeting were Carleton Putnam, Henry Garrett, Robert Kuttner, and Frank C. J. McGurk. With the financial help of Wickliffe Draper, who endowed the Pioneer Fund, the IAAEE went on to write many scientific papers that provoked considerable controversy in academic circles and sometimes even in the general press.
One of the IAAEE’s more important achievements was the distribution of The Testing of Negro Intelligence, written in 1958 by Audrey Shuey (19101977). Shuey, who had done her doctoral work under Henry Garrett, was head of the psychology department at Randolph-Macon Women’s College. Her massive book — the second edition, published in 1966, ran to 578 pages — was the standard volume on race and IQ until the work of later scholars like Arthur Jensen, Philippe Rushton, Richard Lynn, and Michael Levin. Unfortunately, the IAAEE essentially ceased to operate in the early 1970s.
In addition to the court cases launched against Brown, Prof. Jackson covers other little-known efforts to fight integration. For example, immediately after Brown, President Eisenhower ordered the integration of public schools in the nation’s capital. The House Committee on the District of Columbia held hearings on this order. Led by Congressmen John Davis of Georgia and John Bell Williams of Mississippi, the hearings looked into the low test scores of blacks, which committee members attributed to low black intelligence. Davis and Williams, along with two other members, subsequently urged that “racially separate public schools be re-established for the education of white and Negro children in the District of Columbia.” Needless to say, their advice was not taken.
Prof. Jackson even reminds us of Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo’s Greater Liberia Bill, which called for tax money to support voluntary repatriation of blacks to Africa. It was offered in the late 1930s, but lost support with the beginning of the Second World War. Strong sentiment against the racial policies of Nazi Germany greatly hampered Bilbo’s efforts. Prof. Jackson notes that Bilbo’s 1947 book, Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, was probably the last separatist book published by a major American political figure.
For these and many other long-forgotten facts about the fight against racial egalitarianism, Science for Segregation is an extremely illuminating volume. It is a pity contemporary readers must learn of the struggle from a hostile source, but today there are few other sources.
Prof. Jackson writes as if the egalitarian position were firmly grounded in science, but his position is not just unscientific; it is anti-scientific. “There is no line of demarcation between science and politics,” he writes. Of course there is. Science tells us some races are, on average, taller than others. If it tells us some races are more intelligent than others that is an empirical, not a political question. If Prof. Jackson really cannot tell the difference, it is because fear of taboos has blinded him to the obvious. He adds: “That racism speaks in a scientific voice should be no reason for not naming it as racism.” What Prof. Jackson is saying, of course, is that as soon as science uncovers facts uncongenial to his convictions, it is no longer science but “racism.” Such a closed-minded view will protect the egalitarian position against even the best research.
Science — and the truth — are indifferent to Prof. Jackson’s or anyone else’s wishes. That is why, 40 years after school integration, blacks are no better students than they were in segregated schools. As Horace noted in the Epistles, “You may drive nature out with a pitchfork, yet she will always return.” America has been driving out nature with more than pitchforks for 50 years. She may take her time, but she always returns.
(Posted on January 25, 2008)