Harry Bruinius is the author of Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and Americas Quest for Racial Purity. He was born in Chicago and attended Yale University, where he studied theology, and Columbia University, where he studied journalism. He is a frequent contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, a professor of journalism at Hunter College, and the founder of The Village Quill. He lives in Manhattan.
This biography was last updated on 05/30/2016.
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How did you get
access to the letters, diaries, and public records you did while researching
Better For all the World, and where did that research lead you?
The research trail for the American eugenics movement led me to a number of archives around the country. The primary repository of documents, photos, and other material is located at the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia. Most all of the papers of Charles Davenport and the Eugenics Record Office, the loci of my story, are housed here. At the Pickler Memorial Library at Truman State University in Missouri, the papers of my other main character, Harry Laughlin, remain available to researchers. Another important repository can be found at the California Institute of Technology Archives in Pasadena, which includes the papers of the Human Betterment Society.
But one of the most exciting collections turned out to be the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives in New York, where I found a treasure trove of untapped sources on the family life of Charles Davenport, including the diaries of his father and mother. I corrected a long-established misunderstanding of Davenport, which maintained that he had been beset by "conflicting ...
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