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Forging a Laboring RaceThe African American Worker in the Progressive Imagination$
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Paul R.D. Lawrie

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479857326

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479857326.001.0001

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Measuring Men for the Work of War

Measuring Men for the Work of War

Anthropometry, Race, and the Wartime Draft, 1917–1919

Chapter:
(p.71) 3 Measuring Men for the Work of War
Source:
Forging a Laboring Race
Author(s):

Paul R. D. Lawrie

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479857326.003.0004

Wartime imperatives required new corporeal taxonomies of racial labor fitness. Chapter Three examines how social scientists on the Committee on Anthropology (COA) of the National Research Council (NRC), used the science of anthropometry to evaluate the health, shape and fitness of “the Negro type” through the World War One wartime draft. Army physicians and COA officials poked, prodded and probed the bodies of millions of conscripted men in search of dozens of supposed physiological defects and in the process created corporeal typologies of racial fitness. Framing war as work, the COA defined racial types through the measurement and evaluation of the first million army recruits, the ‘multiracial’ workforce of the American International Shipbuilding Association at Hog Island in Philadelphia and the measurement of some 100,000 demobilized men in the summer of 1919. These findings were collected in Physical Examination of the First Million Draft Recruits: Methods and Results(1919), Defects Found in Drafted Men (1919) and Army Anthropology (1921). Wartime anthropometry worked to equate the military evaluation of racial bodies with their industrial classification, reconcile racial form with labor function and delineate the fit from the unfit in explicitly physiological terms.

Keywords:   racial types, anthropometry, wartime draft, World War One

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