Article written by 2009 DPDF Cultures & Histories of the Human Sciences Fellow Terence Keel, featured in the Social History of Medicine:
The influence of polygenism over twentieth-century medicine and racial science has been an underdeveloped area of study. During the period referred to by historians as the ‘eclipse of Darwinism’, assumptions about separate human ancestry often structured debates across the USA over whether racial heredity was responsible for ‘innate dispositions’ toward certain diseases. This article explores how polygenist carryovers made their way into early twentieth-century medical and public health studies on the links between race and venereal disease during the American social hygiene movement (1910–40). It also recovers the work of the African-American physician, ethicist, and social hygienist, Dr Charles V. Roman, who stressed during this period that the idea of common human ancestry should push public health researchers to think more creatively and critically about the social and environmental factors shaping health outcomes and black susceptibility to sexual diseases.