Influence and Controversy. The Races of Mankind and The Brotherhood of Man
by Alice W. Campbell
Published on October 25, 1943, The Races of Mankind makes the argument that all the world’s humans are biologically the same. Written by anthropologists Ruth Benedict and Gene Weltfish and illustrated by Ad Reinhardt, The Races of Mankind attacked Nazi party racial policies and urged mankind to see past superficial differences and live in harmony. The pamphlet was a publication of The Public Affairs Committee, a non-profit educational organization whose purpose was “to make available in summary and inexpensive form the results of research on economic and social problems to aid in the understanding and development of American policy” (Benedict and Weltfish, 1943).
The idea of scientific racial equality, however, was not met with universal agreement. When the U.S. Army ordered 55,000 copies, members of Congress labeled the pamphlet “communistic” and its use by the Army was banned. Still, the scientific pamphlet’s popularity grew, and by 1945 three-quarters of a million copies were in circulation (Abraham, 2012).
In 1945 the United Auto Workers hired United Productions of America (UPA) to adapt The Races of Mankind for the screen. The manufacturer wanted a training film to help ease racial tensions in integrated plants being opened in the South. Screenwriters Ring Lardner, Jr. and Maurice Rapf, and animation director John Hubley created the film version The Brotherhood of Man (Cohen, 1997; Abraham, 2012).
In the early 1950s, a number of the people associated with these two projects would come to the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Committee on Governmental Operations, and the United States Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security. Weltfish would lose her teaching position at Columbia and a purge was undertaken at UPA. Hubley was forced to leave the studio, and, like Weltfish, Lardner, and Rapf, was blacklisted.
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For further reading:
Ad Reinhardt Foundation for Art As Art. http://adreinhardtfoundation.org/
Benedict, R. (1945). Race: science and politics. Rev. ed. with The Races of Mankind. New York: Viking Press.
Kinkel, M. (2014). Critical humor in Ad Reinhardt’s Races of Mankind cartoons. The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved from https://brooklynrail.org/special/AD_REINHARDT/ads-thoughts-and-practices/critical-humor-in-ad-reinhardts-races-of-mankind-cartoons
Abraham, A. (2012). When Magoo flew: the rise and fall of animation studio UPA. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
Cohen, K.F. (1997). Forbidden animation. Censored cartoons and blacklisted animators in America. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Campbell, A. (2018). Influence and Controversy. The Races of Mankind and The Brotherhood of Man. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/eras/wwii-1950s/influence-controversy-races-mankind-brotherhood-man/
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