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

Wed. March 16, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

City Council Chambers

605 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Sponsored by: LexisNexis

Hosted by: Encyclopedia Virginia


Author Adam Cohen (Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck) exposes the story behind a tremendous injustice and its continuing impact today.

Why Should You Attend?

Imbeciles has deep roots in Charlottesville, Carrie Buck’s home town, and is a story of one of the worst cases in Supreme Court history. When the Court upheld eugenic sterilization, and Carrie’s in particular, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes delivered the infamous line, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Imbeciles is a revelatory book. Eye-opening and riveting. In these pages, Adam Cohen brings alive an unsettling, neglected slice of American history, and does so with the verve of a master storyteller.”  Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here.

“Cohen describes the massive popularity of the eugenics movement, which, he notes, ‘permeated the popular culture’ from best-selling books to mass-market magazines. The driving force behind its popularity—the collective fears of native-born, white, middle-class Protestants about a changing America—are as relevant today as then. As far as Buck herself is concerned, Cohen points out that she was of perfectly normal intelligence and that rather than being of ‘loose morals’ she was, in fact, a victim of rape. In this important book, Cohen not only illuminates a shameful moment in American history when the nation’s most respected professions—medicine, academia, law, and the judiciary—failed to protect one of the most vulnerable members of society, he also tracks the landmark case’s repercussions up to the present.” —Booklist starred review

Cohen, Adam, Imbeciles