Human Plants, Human Harvest

Human Plants, Human Harvest

Event poster

During much of the 20th century, California led the nation and the world in promoting and implementing eugenics - a major 20th century movement which attempted to breed better people and prevent propagation of "the unfit." Under the banner of "sterilization for human betterment," over 60,000 Americans, including more than 20,000 Californians - many, if not most, being mentally or physically disabled - were compulsorily sterilized from the early 20th century through the 1960s and 1970s.

Hidden from public view during the second half of the twentieth century, the history of American eugenics, including its direct and indirect links to the Nazis' "racial hygiene" laws and the Holocaust, has re-emerged as a focal point of research and debate during the last fifteen years.

"Human Plants, Human Harvest: The Hidden History of California Eugenics," is the first exhibition ever exclusively devoted to a history of American eugenics. This poster session will provide visitors with a direct experience of some of the powerful visual and textual elements composing this exhibition, which had its premiere showing at the California State University Sacramento Library Gallery in September, 2005.

These compelling exhibition elements include reproductions of the "scientific" statements from national leaders justifying a eugenics targeting the disabled for sterilization, and images of the propaganda utilized to garner public support for eugenics. The under-reported horrific personal experiences of those who were victimized are also shown. The entire exhibition is reproduced in a notebook binder, available for viewing.

With the call for a "new eugenics" based on contemporary genetic advances being heard from academic centers throughout the nation, the history represented in this exhibition is increasingly relevant today.

Human Plants, Human Harvest: The Hidden History of California Eugenics is on display at the California State University Sacramento Library Gallery from September 27 to October 21, 2005. This is the first-ever exhibit exclusively devoted to the history of eugenics in California. Rarely-seen images and documents from archival collections throughout the U.S. reveal the history of California's aggressive eugenic sterilization program, its promotion by the most powerful institutions and individuals in the state, and its adoption as a model by Hitler's regime. The exhibit is organized by Kathryn Sylva, Associate Professor of Design, UC Davis, with Ralph Brave.

An opening reception and gallery talk on October 4 will feature Paul Lombardo, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Law & Medicine, and former California State Senator Art Torres, who legislated the 1979 repeal of California's sterilization law.

For more information, contact Kathryn Sylva at [email protected] or the CSUS Library Gallery at (916) 278-4189.