Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

Longlist, National Book Awards 2016 for Nonfiction

Imbeciles, by Adam Cohen book cover
ISBN 9781594204180
Penguin Press/Penguin Random House
Adam Cohen author photo, credit Eleanor Randolph
Adam Cohen

Adam Cohen is a former member of the New York Times editorial board and senior writer for Time magazine. He is the co-editor of The National Book Review. More about this author >

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One of America’s great miscarriages of justice, the Supreme Court’s infamous 1927 Buck v. Bell ruling made government sterilization of “undesirable” citizens the law of the land.

New York Times bestselling author Adam Cohen tells the story in Imbeciles of one of the darkest moments in the American legal tradition: the Supreme Court’s decision to champion eugenic sterilization for the greater good of the country. In 1927, when the nation was caught up in eugenic fervor, the justices allowed Virginia to sterilize Carrie Buck, a perfectly normal young woman, for being an “imbecile.”

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