The SAT Was Eugenics, And These Black Scholars Fought Hard Against It

Zain Murdock
July 26, 2023

In 1926, Princeton eugenicist and psychologist Carl Brigham’s SAT was administered to American students to identify their aptitude, or natural ability to learn. His work was rooted in the idea that Black people are naturally unintelligent, and he even removed test questions that Black students performed better on. 

But Black academics didn’t let that blatant anti-Blackness fly.

Horace Mann Bond wrote critiques about Brigham’s influence, calling the tests “funds for propaganda” and a “major indoor sport among psychologists.” Howard grad Martin Jenkins published breakthrough studies in major journals that rebuked the link between race and intelligence.

Bond also conducted his own research on various Black students, providing them with emotional support and a stimulating, reassuring testing environment. They performed much better.

Black scholars uncovered the anti-Blackness behind conventional pathways to education, and how we’re expected to view intelligence in the first place. Instead of assimilating to those norms, they rejected white colonial values, behaviors, and beliefs. 

Their resistance eventually forced Brigham to renounce his views - but his opinion isn’t of value to us anyway.

Why should white supremacists have a monopoly on intelligence? As educators, students, and advocates today, let’s continue to reject assimilation in favor of our own knowledge systems, and redefine what intelligence truly means to us.

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