Imbeciles by Adam Cohen


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...

Details Imbeciles

Release DateMar 1st, 2016
PublisherPenguin Press
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Politics, Law, North American Hi..., American History, Science

Reviews Imbeciles

  • Elyse Walters
    In the 1920's, the nation was in the midst of a panic over feeblemindedness. People were being sent away in record numbers - institutionalize -in state hospitals and special schools for the "feebleminded". The governor of Virginia made a public apology 75 years later (The 75th anniversary of United States Supreme Court's ruling in Buck v Bell. Adam Cohen tells the story of Carrie Buck. She was a victim of the eugenics movement. The Government sho...
  • Matt
    A large thank you goes out to my friend, Brenda, who has agreed to jointly read and review this book, in hopes that we might stir up some discussion on the matters addressed. Her review can be found at: Cohen uses this book as a much-needed soap box to highlight a case that made its way to the US Supreme Court, Buck v. Bell, and whose analysis was so jaded that it has found its way on a list of the Court's...
  • Darlene
    Recently I've come to the conclusion,after spending the last couple of years reading books about American history and politics, that most of what I was taught in school seems to be propaganda.. a white washed, sanitized and just general rewriting of United States history. This book, 'Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck' taught me about a movement which began early in the 20th century which targeted...
  • Kimba Tichenor
    This book examines the eugenics movement in the United States and the Supreme Court's ruling in Bell v. Buck, which allowed for the sterilization of so-called undesirables. As the author notes, this ruling has not been overturned to this day. But what is truly amazing is that the author turns a fascinating topic into a tedious recitation of unrelated biographical details of the principle actors involved in this case. Yet, the author provides litt...
  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    "The nation must sterilize those who sap the strength of the State to prevent our being swamped with incompetence."- Oliver Wendall Holmes "Professing to be wise, they became fools."- Romans 1:22Imbecile is the story of the Supreme Court case of Buck vs. Bell, which allowed sterilization of the "unfit" or feebleminded in the name of the eugenics movement. Yes, this was in the United States beginning in the 1920s and, for some states, staying on t...
  • Sara
    This book takes a long look at the American eugenics movement and the key players in it through the story of how Carrie Buck, a young girl from Virginia, became the first in that state to be sterilized for being "feeble minded" after losing a Supreme Court Battle. The Good:I didn't know a lot about the eugenics movement. I knew that it existed and people had been sterilized, immigration laws changed, etc. I thought the book did a good job of capt...
  • Nicole R
    Since starting law school (and even before that), I have been obsessed with constitutional law and the Supreme Court. I think it is fascinating to read their rulings, see how cases build upon each other, and to read about individual justices and how their personalities can shape a SCOTUS era. This last year, I learned about Buck v. Bell (1927). SCOTUS found constitutional a Virginia law that allowed "imbeciles" to be sterilized. Why? Well, the st...
  • Joe
    A deeply unsettling and ominously relevant review of the American eugenics movement, an all-too-often forgotten and ugly injustice which I have to confess I had little idea of the scope of before reading this book. While the actual discussion of the Supreme Court decision itself seemed a little under-researched, Cohen does a good job at outlining the sweep of this cause through the individual stories of the people involved in this groundbreaking ...
  • Cindy Leighton
    If you are unaware that the Supreme Court in 1927 upheld the constitutionality of sterilizing persons the government deemed "unfit" - and the way this power was used to sterilize almost exclusively poor women and men, often without their knowledge, often with ridiculous "evidence" of their "immorality" or "imbecility" - then read this book. Or read stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man to understand how such wrong headed "science" was believed an...
  • Ctgt
    Eye opening and at times scary book about of the rise of eugenics in America at the beginning of the 20th century. It's never a good thing when Nazi Germany patterns their own sterilization program after those in United States.After several setbacks in the courts, eugenic supporters in Virginia crafted a law that they hoped would set the standard and survive legal challenges all the way to the Supreme Court. They basically used Carrie Buck as the...
  • Holly
    Buck v. Bell is right up there with the worst Supreme Court decisions in US history - Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu ... I haven't read an extended history of this before - but now I've read Cohen and this was unforgettable. Along with a detailed biography of Carrie Bell (a woman of normal intelligence), this is a study of eugenic sterilization across American history, a social history of the Progressive era, a study of the misundersta...
  • Annie
    American history is full of injustices. Forgetting these injustices adds insult to injury. Adam Cohen reminds us of one of these injustices—a shocking case of legal shenanigans—with Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. In 1927, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck in Buck v. Bell. In reading this book, I was shocked to discover that the ruling has not ...
  • Melissa
    This book is incredible and a must read . I'd call anyone who doesn't read it an "Imbecile", but I'd never lower myself to their level. For non-fiction, historical non-fiction, human rights advocates, history lovers, and anyone with a beating this. I think it's obvious and fair of me to say that at a certain point with some ARC's you have to begin skimming the story even though you're hanging on every word and don't want to, howev...
  • Ross Blocher
    Imbeciles tells an important and sad story about the eugenics movement in the US in the early 20th century. It centers around Carrie Buck, a young woman who was used as a test case to raise a Virginia sterilization law up to the Supreme Court. The plot was successful, with Buck vs. Bell legalizing forced sterilization in 1927 in an 8-to-1 decision. Amazingly, that ruling has never been overturned.Carrie had been labeled a "Middle grade Moron", wh...
  • Conor
    I've always been intrigued by the case of Buck v. Bell. I did my undergraduate degree in history at UVA, and focused on American history in the South, specifically in the past Century. As someone who figured he would one day end up in law school, and Constitutional law seeming far more majestic in undergrad than in law school, I paid special attention to seminal American case law during my undergraduate studies. Carrie Buck, the plaintiff in this...
  • Louis
    Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck sheds new light on the United States Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision, as well as the overall history of eugenics in the United States. Although Buck v. Bell is rightly regarded as one of the most egregious decisions ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court, digging below the surface it becomes evident that it is even worse than ...
  • Rebecca McPhedran
    This is the true story of Carrie Buck who was the first woman in the United States to be sterilized legally. It chronicles the life of Carrie, and all of the lawyers and chief justices that had a hand in taking her ability to make decisions about her own body. It was a gross miscarriage of justice. Her court appointed lawyer was actually rallying for the side of the eugenicists. The eugenics movement was a crazy time in the United States when sci...
  • Brittany
    I'm a psychologist so the history of the treatment of those with mental or cognitive disabilities has always fascinated me. The practice of forced sterilization is particularly cruel and was still in use till fairly recently. This book focuses on how eugenics, which became reviled after Hilter took a liking to it, was considered a very forward thought by many scientists in the 1800s and 1900s. It tells the story of how the States started to pass ...
  • Anne
    This is a fascinating book, not just for the Carrie Buck aspect of it, but for the interrelated history.With the controversy and debates over immigration today, it's interesting to take a look back to the early 20th century when there was a move to keep Italians, eastern European Jews and other "undesirables" from entering the U.S. because they were inferior in a number of ways, and they may even manage to pollute the US gene pool.Did you know th...
  • Colin McEvoy
    I became very interested in reading Imbeciles after hearing Adam Cohen interviewed about the book on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I found the subject completely fascinating and was amazed that I had never heard about this sad chapter of in recent American history, nor was I at all familiar with the Supreme Court case of Buck vs. Bell. Once I read the book, however, to be honest, I found that much of the most fascinating material had been well-cove...
  • George
    WHAT A FASCINATING SUBJECT.“Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (p. 270)—Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.EUGENICS IN AMERICA?  Government forced sterilizations of the feebleminded right here in the good ole U. S. of A.?  Yessiree—right here in River City.  Perhaps as many as seventy thousand, over the years. Court sanctioned; all legal and tidy like.  And who knew? Sadly, many of its victims knew least of all wh...
  • Harley
    During the first half of the 20th century, the American government at various local and state levels authorized the sterilization of thousands of Americans. This book tells the horrific story of the American Eugenics movement and the attempt by progressives to purify the American bloodlines by removing feeble-minded individuals and people with epilepsy through sterilization. The core of the book traces the history of the passing of a sterilizatio...
  • Erin Cataldi
    Utterly horrifying and captivating. Author, Adam Cohen, digs deep to shed light on America's horrifying obsession with eugenics by outlining the supreme court case of Carrie Buck, a young girl who was declared "feeble-minded" and sterilized. At the turn of the twentieth century America's elite were infatuated with the idea of strengthening the American race by practicing eugenics on those undesirables that society wanted to get rid of: imbeciles,...
  • Celina Rose
    Wow this is a great book. It's absolutely chilling to read about the institutions that are in place to protect American citizens completely turned against a group of people without accurate evidence. And nobody even batted an eye! Then these ideas transported themselves across the Atlantic to influence Nazi Germany. Some of the parts kinda dragged on, especially about certain character's backgrounds. However, it was easy to read and a page turner...
  • Bob Costello
    I find it completely amazing for a book that purports to be a history of American Eugenics that it does not mention the name of the leading American eugenics organization, Planned Parenthood. PP's leader Margaret Sanger, one of America's eugenics leaders in the 1920s & 1930s, only gets two sentence in Cohen's book. What a white wash of history.
  • Tina
    This book was a bit repetitive, but I was fascinated and appalled by the story of Carrie Buck and the Supreme Court's decision. I also wish that the book had delved more deeply into the gender elements of the American eugenics movement.
  • Steve Smits
    Cohen’s riveting story of one of the blackest episodes in American social history – the mass sterilization of persons with intellectual disabilities – has a particular resonance for me. I spent my professional career working with these individuals and have personal knowledge of the terrible circumstances of their lives sanctioned by the powers of government, circumstances which slowly improved in the last quarter of the 20th century, but wh...
  • Larry Bassett
    This 2016 audible book is about the eugenics movement in the United States in the 20th century. It is most specifically about involuntary sterilization and a US Supreme Court decision in 1927 That determined that sterilization was constitutional. In the 20th century approximately 60,000 people were sterilized involuntarily in the United States. The 1927 Supreme Court case originated in Virginia and is followed extensively in this lengthy story. T...
  • Giuseppe
    The most famous quote of three generations of imbeciles being enough is disturbing on its face. The book delves deeply into all of the major players involved in this disgraceful 8-1 decision by the court.The fact that this case tends to be glossed over when discussions of the most poorly decided court cases arise is disappointing. The court has never formally overturned the precedent it set forth, though it is safe to say that any similar cases w...
  • Paul
    This book had great information content and is definitely worth reading if you aren't familiar with the case. It's a pretty good reminder of one of the key reasons why technocratic policies can go horribly, horribly wrong. Probably the most critical fact about this incident is that it has never been overturned.The main issue I have with the book is stylistic - it's a bit over the top but mostly it's repetitive. Every time Cohen brings up Audrey S...