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defending the master race d e f e n d i n g t h e m a s t e r r a c e J o n a t h a n p e t e r S p i r o J o n a t h a n p e t e r S p i r o Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant C o n s e r v a t i o n , E u g e n i c s , a n d t h e L e g a c y of M a d i s o n G r a n t A historical rediscovery of a founder of the conservation movement who was also one of the most infamous racists in American history Scholars have labeled Madison Grant everything from “the nation’s most influential racist” to “the greatest conservationist that ever lived.” His life illuminates early twentieth-century America as it was heading toward the American Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, from the speeches of immigrant-bashing politicians to the international efforts to arrest climate change. This insightful biography shows how Grant worked sideby -side with figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to found the Bronx Zoo, preserve the California redwoods , and save the American bison from extinction . In commemoration of his conservation efforts, the world’s tallest tree, located in northern California , was dedicated to Grant in 1931. But Madison Grant was also the leader of the eugenics movement in the United States. He popularized the infamous notions that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordics were the “master race” and that the state should eliminate members of inferior races who were of no value to the community. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Grant’s ideas appeared in the sermons of ministers, the pages of America’s leading magazines, and the speeches of presidents. Grant’s behind-the-scenes machinations (and manipulation of scientific data) convinced Congress to enact the immigration restriction legislation of the 1920s that eliminated the immigration of nonNordic races. Grant also influenced many states to pass coercive sterilization statutes under which tens of thousands of Americans deemed to be unworthy were sterilized from the 1930s through the 1970s, and he collaborated with Southern white racists to pass laws banning interracial marriage. Although most of the relevant archival materials on Madison Grant have mysteriously disappeared over the decades since Grant’s death in 1937, Jonathan Peter Spiro has devoted many years to reconstructing the hitherto concealed events of Grant’s life. His astonishing feat of detective work reveals how a founder of the Bronx Zoo wound up writing The Passing of the Great Race (1916), the book that the Nazis later used to justify the exterminationist policies of the Third Reich. J o n a t h a n p e t e r S p i r o is a professor of history at Castleton College in Vermont . During the four years it took him to uncover the secret life of Madison Grant, Professor Spiro conducted extensive research in hundreds of archives all over the United States and painstakingly combed through the writings and correspondence of thousands of Grant’s contemporaries. Jacket Design: The DesignWorks Group, Charles Brock Author Photo: Ennis Duling Jacket illustrations (top to bot tom): Buffalo image courtesy of the Li brary of Congress , LC-USZ62-39967; Madison G rant photograph courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society; G erman phrenology photograph, 1932, courtesy of ullstein bild/ The Granger Collection, New York. “Jonathan Spiro has accomplished a near-miraculous feat of scholarship, reconstructing from apparently purged primary sources the life and impact of a titan of American conservation whose enduring best-seller, The Passing of the Great Race, Adolph Hitler called his ‘Bible.’ Madison Grant’s prolific career bridged the development of wildlife and ecosystem management with that of scientific racism and eugenics early in the twentieth century. The horrific consequences of the latter unfortunately annulled the memory of what good Grant did. Spiro elucidates not only that link, but also the largely ignored continuities between the anti-democratic Anglo-American aristocracy and the German extermination program, the toll of which became apparent only after Grant’s own passing.” — G r a y B r e c h i n, author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (1999) “Jonathan Spiro’s portrait of Madison Grant...


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