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2nd & 3rd Congress: Part I, Panel 2

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Panel 2 | “How we look: Eugenics, the Second Congress, Immigration, and changing today’s demographics”
This panel looks at the integral role the eugenics movement more broadly, and the Second Congress in particular, played in shaping the demographics of the country – through the targeted selection and exclusion of certain communities. The first half of this panel session, led by Dan Okrent, with Alan Kraut and Mark Tseng-Putterman, looks at the context of the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act and the lobbying around that act. It considers the part played by the Congress in justifying such an act, and its implications leading up to the Second World War and the denial of entry to certain groups escaping Nazi persecution. The second half of the session is joined by Lina-Maria Murillo, Celeste Menchaca and Gianna May Sanchez. It explores the long history of eugenic rhetoric and practice on the Southern border, and asks what can be learnt from this as we reflect on the humanitarian disaster on the Mexican/US border today.


  • Daniel Okrent

    Daniel Okrent is the prize-winning author of six books. Before The Guarded Gate, he published Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (2011), which was cited by the American Historical Association as the year’s best book on American history. Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. Among his many jobs in publishing, he was corporate editor-at-large at Time Inc., and was the first public editor of the New York Times. Okrent served on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery for 12 years, including a four-year term (2003-2007) as chairman, and remains a board member of the Skyscraper Museum and the Authors Guild.
  • Lina-Maria Murillo

    Lina-Maria Murillo received her doctorate in Borderlands History at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2016. She received her M.A. in 2011 from UTEP and her B.A. in History and Raza Studies from San Francisco State University in 2007. She is completing her manuscript titled Fighting for Control: Race and Reproductive Rights Activism in the U.S-Mexico Borderlands. Describing the clinics, organizations, and institutions that helped to foster access to reproductive care along the border in the twentieth century, this history reveals the tensions between advocates for population control and those committed to greater reproductive rights for the majority Mexican-origin women in the region. The study focuses on the history of Planned Parenthood along the line and shines a light on the unknown history of abortion, population control, and Chicana activism that comprised the movement in the borderlands. For her next project, Murillo is writing the biography of the unknown abortion rights activist Patricia Maginnis, who in the years before Roe v. Wade established a well-organized abortion network across the border. Additionally, Murillo focuses on the intersections of reproductive freedom, race, gender, class, and sexuality, as well as immigration and Latina/o/x subjectivities.
  • Alan Kraut

    Alan M. Kraut is University Professor of History at American University and a non-resident fellow of the Migration Policy Institute. Specializing in immigration and ethnic history and the history of medicine in the United States, he is the author or editor of nine books and many scholarly articles. Volumes include The Huddled Masses, the Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921 (1982; 2nd ed. 2001); Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes and the “Immigrant Menace.” (1994); and Goldberger’s War: The life and Work of a Public Health Crusader (2003). A study of U.S. Public Health Service physician Dr. Joseph Godberger’s investigation of pellagra in the early twentieth century South. Silent Travelers won the Theodore Saloutos Prize (Immigration and Ethnic History Society). Goldberger’s War received the Henry Adams Prize (Society for History in the Federal Government) and the Arthur Viseltear Prize (American Public Health Association). In 2007 he and his wife, Deborah, co-authored Covenant of Care: Newark Beth Israel and the Jewish Hospital in American. In 2013 he published Ethnic Historians and the Mainstream: Shaping America’s Immigration Story (co-edited). He is currently writing a history of xenophobia and nativism throughout American history. Kraut’s research has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Institutes of Health. He is a past Present of the Organization of American Historians and is the current President of the National Coalition for History. He is an elected fellow of the prestigious Society of American Historians. In 2017 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.

  • Celeste Menchaca

    Celeste Menchaca is an Assistant Professor at the Texas Christian University. She is an expert on the relationship between science, technology, and vision that created borders for modern nation-states.
  • Gianna May Sanchez

    Gianna May Sanchez is a history PhD candidate at the University of Michigan. Her work primarily focuses on the history of medicine in the twentieth century American West, with particular interest in folk healing, curanderismo, and women’s health. She is currently an editor at Nursing Clio and a Research Assistant for the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab with Alexandra Minna Stern. Her public engagement and public history work includes contracting with the Smithsonian Latino Center to develop digital initiatives and visitor entry points into historical and contemporary content; website development and digital humanities tools that provide pedagogical and academic resources for users; and community-based history projects.
  • Mark Tseng Putterman

    I am a PhD student in American Studies focusing on Asian American political organizing, coalitional politics, and comparative ethnic studies. As someone committed to the political project of ethnic studies, I am drawn to public humanities work in order to think critically about how to make my scholarship public-facing and to make theory work for social movements. My background in public humanities includes serving as associate curator for the New York University exhibition series Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office, which explored the history and legacy of the U.S. eugenics movement and “scientific” racism. I try to write for a public audience when I can, and my recent work on Asian American racial politics has appeared in the Huffington Post, Truth-Out, The Root, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.