As the University of Virginia marks its Bicentennial, the laying of its cornerstone will be celebrated by old and new Hoos alike. The University's history is long and rich, as is with any any premier institution of learning almost as old as the United States itself.
A journey to the bottom floors of the University's Shirley Small Special Collections and the Claude Moore Health Science libraries reveals hundreds upon hundreds of journals, all giving a vivid glimpse into the University's past. Not all the historical accounts are good, of course — there are controversial manuscripts and many journals and books depicting the brutalities of slavery. Texts relay accounts of the evolution of man from more "exotic" races. Some are centuries old, and some only decades.
Look even further at dusty anatomy books, containing pages upon pages of racist and ableist prose. Some describe methods of ensuring lighter skin in offspring. Others recommend forced sterilization of "defective women."
This is the pseudoscience of eugenics, a collection of genetics practices based on mistaken facts — a so-called science propagated by a legion of the University's best minds at the time. It is a science which promoted the falsehood of genetic purity and at its worst, lent its ideas to the Nazi movement. Eugenics was well in practice in the 20th century and even now its grasp on the University, in the wake of the self-reflection following the events of Aug. 11 and 12, is apparent.