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date: 23 September 2020


  • Diane L. Barnes


Proponents of ethnology, a pseudoscience popular in the mid-nineteenth century, claimed that races of people were, in fact, separate human species. Some southern proslavery advocates used the notion of ethnology to support the belief that as a separate species, individuals of African descent were an inferior race and perfectly suited for slavery, but only one major advocate of ethnology hailed from the southern states. Ethnology formed only a minor influence on racial thinking among the general populace, but it did gain support among the scientific community and some intellectuals.

The American school of ethnology which was not an institution but more an informal movement evolved from scientific principles set forth by Samuel George Morton a Philadelphia physician Having studied the internal cranial capacity of humans from various races and ethnic groups Morton rejected prevailing theories which held that environmental forces played the largest part in racial differentiation for example that ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.

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