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“‘Scientific’ Racism Again?”:1 Reginald Gates, the Mankind Quarterly and the Question of “Race” in Science after the Second World War


Biologist and botanist Reginald Gates is mainly remembered as a staunch scientific conservative, a defender of racial theory and fierce opponent of racial mixing. In post-war Britain and America, Gates's racial views made him something of a pariah. This article explores Gates's post-war career as a micro-historical analysis of racial science and society after the Second World War. It examines the relationship between scientific racists and segregationists in the US, especially concerning the Brown ruling and the establishment of the Mankind Quarterly journal, arguing that science in this period was subsumed into politics as protagonists on both sides of the segregation debate used science to justify ideological positions.

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2 Gates MSS, Liddell Hart Archive, King's College London, Box 1/7, Letter to Dean Dr. J. St. Clair Price, 17 Feb. 1947.

4 As evidence, the letter writers cited Gates's 1944 contribution to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (titled “Different Species”) and his 1934 article in Population (titled “Heredity and Social and Racial Problems”).

5 Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter to Dean Dr. J. St. Clair Price, 17 Feb. 1947.

6 Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter from Gates to Dean Price, 22 Feb. 1947.

7 Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter from Gates to Mordecai Johnson, 17 March 1947.

8 See Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter from the Head of Science U. H. Ellinger to the Dean, 17 March 1947.

9 Notably, Gates blamed Jews when his research articles were rejected by journals. See Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Brimble to Gates concerning a rejected article in the journal Nature, 15 April 1949.

10 For brief accounts of Gates's career see E. Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States between the World Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 168–76; and M. Kohn, The Race Gallery: The Return of Racial Science (London: Jonathon Cape, 1995), 53–54, 62.

11 See in particular W. Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism, Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002); and B. Mehler, “Rightists on the Rights Panel,” Nation, 7 May 1988, 640–41. Other scholars have considered the complicated relationship between “racial” scientists and society in this period. Hasian Jr. has argued in this context that “race” scientists should not be seen as “spectators” in society, but as “participants who legitimate and certify particular performances as science.” See M. Hasian Jr., The Rhetoric of Eugenics (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 7. Barkan has presented a similar analysis: “If popular opinion holds that science has its own determinism and that it is applied in a coherent manner as a result of its substance and objectivity, historical records suggest otherwise.” See Barkan, 228.

12 W. A. Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism 1938–1987 (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 272–311.

13 Tucker has discovered that Gates believed that this position was terminated after an argument with a Jewish colleague. See Tucker, 92–93.

14 R. R. Gates, Heredity and Eugenics (London: Constable, 1923), 232.

15 Ibid., 215.

16 Ibid., 225.

17 Ibid., 236.

18 See R. R. Gates, Human Genetics, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 1: 45, 1160–61; and R. R. Gates, The Emergence of Racial Genetics (New York: International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics, 1963; posthumous publication), 1–3.

19 Gates MSS, File 11/41, unpublished review notes on Otto Klineberg, ed., Characteristics of the American Negro (New York and London: Harper, 1944).

20 Gates's conclusions about “racial” mixing and differing “racial” abilities in Heredity and Eugenics are comparable to other major academic works on “racial” difference published after the First World War. See M. Moul and K. Pearson, “The Problem of Alien Admission into Great Britain, Illustrated by an Examination of Russian and Polish Jewish Children,” Annals of Eugenics, 1 (1925), 6–127; J. W. Gregory, The Menace of Colour (London: Seeley, Service and Co, 1925). Also see the views of Julian Huxley in the 1920s in Barkan, 181–58.

21 The Journal of Experimental Biology was founded in October 1923 and continues to the present day.

22 See Race and Culture (London: Royal Anthropological Institute and the Institute of Sociology, 1935), 2. Barkan has written in detail on this conference in Barkan, Retreat of Scientific Racism, 285–96.

23 Race and Culture, 5–6. These views were consistent with Smith's published analysis on the subject. See G. Elliot Smith, Human History (London: Cape, 1930); and idem, The Diffusion of Culture (London: Watts, 1933).

24 Race and Culture, 19. Firth was an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

25 Race and Culture, 8.

26 This argument was intellectually rooted in polygenist “racial” theory, the idea that human beings had emerged from more than one original source. The theory was most popular from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth but retained some key supporters into the twentieth century. Notably, Arthur Keith's eager analysis of the later discredited “Piltdown Man” famously carried a form of this thinking into the inter-war period. See J. Sawday, “‘New Men, Strange Faces, Other Minds’: Arthur Keith, Race and the Piltdown Affair (1912–52),” in W. Ernst and B. Harris, eds., Race, Science and Medicine, 1700–1960 (New York: Routledge, 1999), 259–88. Gates posited polygenist theory until his death in 1962. Indeed, these beliefs were recorded in his final academic contribution published posthumously one year after his death. See R. R. Gates, The Emergence of Racial Genetics.

27 Race and Culture, 13. Gates seemingly saw no contradiction between this argument and his hostility towards “miscegenation.” Scientific orthodoxy contends that breeding can only successfully occur between members of the same species, a belief to which Gates did not subscribe. He argued in Heredity and Eugenics, “The fact that all the races of mankind are fertile with each other is no longer a sufficient reason for classifying them as one species.” R. R. Gates, Heredity and Eugenics, 224.

28 Race and Culture, 15.

29 In particular, gentleman scholar and anthropologist William Pitt Rivers supported Gates's position on “race.” See Race and Culture, 17–18.

30 Barkan, 1. Also see Kohn, The Race Gallery, 2.

31 N. Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science (London: Macmillan, 1982), 141. Also see G. Wersky, The Visible College (London: Allen Lane, 1978), 234–43.

32 See Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal, 274.

33 For analysis of changing scientific thinking on “race” in this period see G. Schaffer, “‘Like a Baby with a Box of Matches’: British Scientists and the Concept of “Race” in the Inter-war Period,” British Journal of the History of Science, 38, 3 (2005), 307–24.

34 In one text, Haldane offered the following clear explanation for scientific anti-racism: “At the present time we are fighting Hitlerism with bombs and depth charges. We should be doing so in the realm of ideas also.” See J. B. S. Haldane, Science Advances (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1947), 235–36. Also see L. Hogben, Dangerous Thoughts (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1939), 51. For secondary analysis of the ideologies of British left-liberal scientists in the inter-war period see Werskey's The Visible College.

35 Arguing that all modern nations were “melting pots of race,” Huxley and Haddon fiercely criticized the idea that “racial” purity in a national population was either achievable or desirable. See J. Huxley and A. C. Haddon, We Europeans: A Survey of “Racial” Problems (London: Cape, 1935), 287.

36 J. Huxley, Memories I (London: Allen and Unwin, 1970), 207.

37 Jackson, 245.

38 Jackson, 274.

39 President's Committee on Civil Rights, Executive Order 9808, 5 December 1946.

40 The committee criticized the Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which upheld the notion of “separate but equal.” See To Secure These Rights: The Report of Harry S. Truman's Committee on Civil Rights, ed. S.Lawson (Boston and New York: Bedford/St Martins, 2004), 111–13. Call for the elimination of segregation, 179.

41 To Secure These Rights, 156.

42 UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization) aimed to promote internationalism and champion cultural exchange. Julian Huxley was the first director of this programme. See J. Huxley, UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy (Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press, 1948). For more recent analysis see Kohn, The Race Gallery, 45–47.

43 “The UNESCO Statement by Experts on Race Problems,” 18 July 1950. Cited in full in A. Montagu, Race, Science and Humanity (London: Von Nostrand, 1963), 176.

44 Ibid., 175.

45 Schaffer, “‘Like a Baby with a Box of Matches’,” 15–16. Also see I. A. Newby, Challenge to the Court: Social Scientists and the Defense of Segregation 1954–1966 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), xii.

46 See John P. Jackson, “The Scientific Attack on Brown v. Board of Education, 1954–1964,” American Psychologist, 59, 6 (2004), 530–37, 530. Also Newby, 19–61.

47 See Newby, 43–61.

48 In the USA these scientists attempted unsuccessfully to challenge the Brown decision, notably in the Stell v. Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education case, 1963.

49 Kohn, 2. Also see Newby, xi.

50 For the ideology behind the founding of Howard see R. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years 1867–1967 (New York: New York University Press, 1969), 18–22.

51 Logan has argued that “the small number of white students was a matter of their choice and not of university policy.” Ibid., 578.

52 Ibid., 361–62.

53 Du Bois's project was titled “A Study of Economic and Social Problems of Negroes.” Work was researching a “Bibliography on European Colonization and the Resulting Contacts on Peoples, Races and Cultures.”

54 It is significant that Gates was supported throughout by the Head of Science at Howard, U. H. Ellinger, who shared Gates's views on black potential. Ellinger left Howard soon after and told Gates in a letter, “I shall never any more try to educate Negroes! I give up. They do not belong to Homo Sapiens even if their girls may do quite excellently in a Southern hore [sic] house. She [an ex-student] quite frankly explained that the way to get As at a Southern University was to go with the professors. And we are supposed to accept such degrees! What a joke.” See Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Ellinger to Gates, 6 Jan. 1950.

55 Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter from Gates to Dean Price, 22 Feb. 1947.

56 Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter to Dean Dr. J. St. Clair Price, 17 Feb. 1947.

57 See Logan, 362–63.

58 The petitioners argued, “Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Ashley Montagu, Otto Klineberg and others will serve as adequate documentation of our position.” Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Letter to Dean Dr. J. St. Clair Price, 17 Feb. 1947.

59 The passage of “race” from biology to social science was noted as early as 1935 by Huxley and Haddon in We Europeans, 22 and 284. In fact, We Europeans was co-written with leading social scientists Charles Singer and Charles Seligman, who did not lend their names to the work amid fears that their Jewishness would lead to allegations of a bias in the analysis.

60 See Jackson, “The Scientific Attack on Brown,” 530.

61 See R. R. Gates, Pedigrees of Negro Families (Philadelphia: Blackiston, 1949).

62 Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Cummins to Gates, 4 April 1950.

63 Gates MSS, Box 1/7, Gates to Dean Price, 22 Feb. 1947. It was common for pro-segregation ideologues to claim that they had the best interests of black people in mind. Gates typically commented on one pro-segregation study, “The author, like Southerners generally, shows more friendliness and real understanding of the Negro than is generally found in the North, where relatively few are present except in the cities.” See Gates MSS, Review of C. Putnam, Race and Reason: A Yankee View, Box 11/102, 1961.

64 Having been commissioned by the Carnegie Institute, Swedish economist and social scientist Gunnar Myrdal wrote An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem in Modern Democracy, calling for an end to segregation, in 1944. For conspiracy theories surrounding Myrdal's intentions see Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal, 292.

65 Newby, Challenge to the Court, 65.

66 See Gates MSS. For rejection by the American Journal of Physical Anthropology see Box 1/13, Howells to Gates, 10 June 1951; for Science rejection see Box 1/13, Editor to Gates, 15 May 1951; and for the Journal of the American Society of Human Genetics see Box 1/13, Herndon to Gates, 31 March 1952.

67 Gates MSS, Box 1/13, Gates to Howells, 3 April 1951.

68 Gates MSS, Box 1/13, Howells to Gates, 5 July 1951.

69 Gates MSS, Box 1/13, Gates to Strandskov, 20 Dec. 1951.

70 See Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism, 137–43.

71 For a thorough explanation of this debate see Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science, 111–37, Barkan, 137–43 and Paul Rich, Race and Empire in British Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 109–16.

72 Barkan has concluded that despite the decline of biometrics, both approaches combined to fundamentally alter thinking on “race.” See Barkan, 140.

73 See Stepan, 119–21 and 137; and Rich, 109.

74 Gates MSS, Box 1/13, Howells to Gates, 10 June 1951.

75 See Gates MSS, Box 1/17. Fleure agreed to help Gates secure publication in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 20 Dec. 1956. For Fleure's help to Gates also see Box 1/18, Fleure to Gates, 4 Jan. 1956.

76 Gates MSS, Fleure to Gates, Box 1/14, 22 Oct. 1953.

77 Gates MSS, Fleure to Gates, Box 1/19, 16 June 1958.

78 Gates MSS, Hooton to Gates, Box 1/14, 18 May 1953.

79 Gates Obituary, The Times, 13 Aug. 1962.

80 Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Brimble to Gates, 15 April 1949.

81 Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Meyerhoff to Dr. Lorin Mullins (Biological Laboratory, Purdue University), 2 Sept. 1949.

82 Gates MSS, Box 1/14, Hooton to Gates, 18 May 1953.

83 Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Keith to Gates, 20 Nov. 1950.

84 Gates MSS, Box 1/12, Keith to Gates, 23 Feb. 1950.

85 Gates MSS, Box 1/13, Keith to Gates, 22 May 1951.

86 Gates MSS, Box 1/14, Keith to Gates, 12 May 1953.

87 Newby, Challenge to the Court, 185–93; and Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal, 252.

88 Newby, 186.

89 Newby, 191–212.

90 See Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism, 90–93; and Kohn, The Race Gallery, 52–54.

91 See Tucker, 91, on Gayre.

92 Gates MSS, Box 1/17, Gayre to Gates, 11 July 1956.

93 Gates MSS, Box 1/17, Gayre to Gates, 4 Oct. 1956.

94 Gates MSS, Box 1/18, Gayre to Gates, 4 Feb. 1957.

95 Gates MSS, Box 1/19, Gayre to Gates, 29 July 1958.

96 For a thorough analysis of Garrett's “racial” views see Tucker, 79–81. Tucker (79) describes Garrett as “arguably the most eminent of the scientific segregationists.” Newby describes the key role of Garrett in the 1951 Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County case, 53–54.

97 The Mankind Quarterly, 1, 1 (July 1960), 4.

98 See Gates, The Emergence of Racial Genetics, 1.

99 See Kohn, The Race Gallery, 54.

100 The Mankind Quarterly, 2, 2 (Oct.–Dec. 1961), 42–47.

101 The Mankind Quarterly, 2, 2 (Oct.–Dec. 1961), 46. In a revealing response to Newby's claim that the Quarterly was only a small journal, Gayre argued, “The Mankind Quarterly is a small journal – but so are the Gospels small books.” Newby, Challenge to the Court, 320.

102 The Mankind Quarterly, 2, 2 (Oct.–Dec. 1961), 84.

103 Tucker, 93.

104 Gates MSS, Box 1/21, Gayre to Gates, 18 May 1960.

105 For analysis of the relationship between science and society in this period see W. McGucken, Scientists, Society and the State: The Social Relations of Science Movement in Great Britain, 1931–47 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1984), 155–214.

106 For the impact of Nazism on scientific thinking see Werskey, The Visible College, 234–43; Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism, 271–74; D. Stone, “Race in British Eugenics,” European History Quarterly, 31, 3 (2000), 397–425, 398; and Kohn, 40–42.

107 Gates MSS, Box 1/16, W. J. Simmons to Gates, 24 May 1955.

108 Gates MSS, Box 1/17, Simmons to Gates, 28 June 1956.

109 Gates MSS, Box 1/16, Gates to Editor of the New York Times, 11 June 1956.

110 In 1958 the pro-segregation businessman Edward Benjamin financed Gates's research field trip to Australia. See Gates MSS, Box 1/19, Benjamin to Gates, 14 Feb. 1958.

111 See Newby, Challenge to the Court, 321.

112 Gates MSS, Box 1/21, Garrett to Gates, 2 April 1960. Whilst the initial money given to the Mankind Quarterly was modest compared to other sums donated by Draper, Gayre and Gates shared a belief that he would fund at least the first year's costs of running the journal. See Gates MSS, Box 1/21, Gayre to Gates, 7 April 1960.

113 See Douglas A. Blackmon, “Silent Partner: How the South's Fight to Uphold Segregation Was Funded Up North,” Wall Street Journal, 6 Nov. 1999; and Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism. Also see Yasu Katagiri, The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission: Civil Rights and States' Rights (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001).

114 The major beneficiary from Draper's will was the “Pioneer Fund,” a pro-eugenics organization cofounded by Draper himself in 1937, which pursued a range of pro-segregation and eugenic policies.

115 For the history of the IAAEE see Tucker, 78–101 and Newby, 119. Interestingly, it was the IAAEE who published Gates's final work, The Emergence of Racial Genetics, after his death in 1963.

116 Tucker, 90.

117 Garrett even sat on the executive Committee of the IAAEE. See Tucker, 81–84.

118 D. Purves, “The Evolutionary Basis of Race Consciousness,” the Mankind Quarterly, 1, 1(July–Sept. 1960), 51–54, 54.

119 For example, see R. Hall, “Zoological Subspecies of Man,” the Mankind Quarterly, 1, 2 (Oct.–Dec. 1960), 118–19, S. D. Porteus, “Ethnic Group Differences,” the Mankind Quarterly, 1, 3 (Jan.–March 1961), 187–200, and H. Garrett, “The Equalitarian Dogma,” the Mankind Quarterly, 1, 4 (April–June 1961), 253–57.

120 See R. Gayre, “The Bantu Homelands of the Northern Transvaal,” the Mankind Quarterly, 3, 2 (Oct.–Dec. 1962), 98–112. Gayre wrote this piece after being the guest of honour at a meeting of the Genetics Society of the South African Congress. He then conducted his field research under the guidance of a public relations official of the Bantu Administration in Pretoria.

121 Garrett, 256.

122 R. Osbourne, “School Achievement of White and Negro Children of the Same Mental and Chronological Ages,” the Mankind Quarterly, 2, 1 (July–Sept. 1961), 26–29.

123 See N. Weyl, “The Jewish Role in the American Elite,” the Mankind Quarterly, 3, 1 (July–Sept. 1962), 26–36; and N. Weyl, “The Ethnic and National Characteristics of the US Elite,” the Mankind Quarterly, 1, 4 (1961), 242–52.

124 See Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism, 80.

125 Gates was at the very centre of the creation and vision. Kohn has rightly described him as “the most prominent” of the Mankind Quarterly scientists in Kohn, The Race Gallery, 51.

126 Tucker has noted that leading pro-segregationist contributors to the Quarterly toured the southern states in the wake of the Brown decision giving out copies of the journal to departments of education. See Tucker, 100.

127 Gayre recorded that the journal (in advance of first publication) had only attracted 40 subscriptions. See Gates MSS, Box 1/21, Gayre to Gates, 27 April 1960. Tucker has argued that after initial controversy the journal was “barely noticed by mainstream scholars” in The Funding of Scientific Racism, 99.

128 Gates MSS, Box 1/21, Gayre to Gates, 23 May 1960. The journal did manage to attract to the board the unaffiliated if well-connected Sir Charles Darwin from Cambridge.

129 The US was represented by Prof. Henry Garrett, Prof. Frank McGurk, Dr. Clarence Oliver, Prof. S. D. Porteus, Dr. John Scudder, Dr. Audrey Shuey and Prof. Harry Turney-High.

130 Gates MSS, Box 1/21, Gayre to Gates, 15 April 1960.

131 The Mankind Quarterly was heavily dependent on a few dedicated contributors who wrote in nearly every edition. Notably, Gates, Gayre, Lundman (assistant professor of physical anthropology in Uppsala University in Sweden), James Gregor (secretary of the International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics) and journalists Nathaniel Weyl and H. G. Classen wrote in most early editions.

132 The Mankind Quarterly, 3, 1 (July–Sept. 1962), 3–4.

133 Ibid.

134 Ibid.

135 See Kohn, The Race Gallery, 53–54 and Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism, 88–90.

136 When the infamous Bell Curve study was published in 1994, the New York Review of Books recorded that 17 cited researchers had previously been contributors to the Mankind Quarterly whilst ten had in fact served as editor. See Tucker, 1–2; Kohn, 88–116; and C. Lane, “The Tainted Sources of ‘The Bell Curve’,” New York Review of Books, 1 Dec. 1994, 14–15.

1 This title is borrowed from an article by the Mexico-based physical anthropologist Juan Comas, attacking the Mankind Quarterly journal. See Juan Comas, “‘Scientific’ Racism Again?”, Current Anthropology, 2, 4 (1961), 303–40. Comas wrote other influential articles attacking the concept of “race.” See Juan Comas, Racial Myths (Paris: UNESCO, 1951).

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