The Race Question

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Boasian anthropology
American Anthropological Association
Boasian anthropology
Cultural relativism
Franz Boas
Noble savage
Race denialism
Recent African origin
of modern humans
Statement on "Race"
The Race Question

The Race Question is the title of a 1950 declaration by UNESCO.


The core ideological focus of the statement was race denialism, although complete race denialism was not possible at this time.

UNESCO was after WWII officially requested to create a propaganda campaign, which should be "disseminating scientific facts designed to remove what is generally known as racial prejudice". UNESCO decided to create a declaration as a foundation for the campaign. In 1950, the declaration "The Race Question" was published. A majority of the authors were sociologists and the main author was the Jewish anthropologist Ashley Montagu. The declaration recognized the existence of races, but at the same time made many controversial claims and demands. No source was given for the claims. The publication was followed by widespread criticisms by critics, who saw it as an attempt to politically decide what should be the scientific truth.[1][2][3]

The introduction to the declaration stated, without citing any sources, that the race situation in Brazil was in "harmony" and "favorable and, in many ways, exemplary" (possibly related to beliefs that extensive race mixing is the solution to race problems).[4] See also Race and crime: Brazil and Brazil: Race.

See also the article on Boasian anthropology.


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  • Ashley Montagu — English-born Jew who was the rapporteur (appointed investigator) for the statement. He studied under both Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. He published a series of works questioning the validity of race as a biological concept. His most well-known work was Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: the Fallacy of Race. He was particularly opposed to the work of Carleton S. Coon.
  • Morris Ginsberg — Lithuanian-born Jew who worked in the area of sociology after moving to the United Kingdom. Founder of the British Sociological Association. Promoter of what he claimed to be "moral objectivism".
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss — French-born Jew who was a leading idealogue of cultural relativism and the founder of ethnology. Counted Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud amongst his influences. Described by one French critic as holding an "extremely subversive vision with his interest in populations that were disdained."
  • Ernest Beaglehole — psychological anthropologist from New Zealand. Worked for the United Nations in Bolivia. Most of his studied and work was done amongst the Polynesians, for instance in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
  • Juan Comas — anti-European academic from Catalonia, Spain. During the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, Comas fought on the side of the Republicans and went into exile after the war. Wandered around in South America working on Amerindian "studies". Comas was influential to the rise of indigenismo, a relativistic movement associated with "anti-colonial" Marxist movements such as those in Venezuela and Bolivia.
  • E. Franklin Frazier — American Black who participated in the NAACP and the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, a student wing of the Socialist Party of America.
  • L. A. Costa Pinto — Brazil.
  • Humayun Kabir — India.

Revised 1951 version

Less well known is that the text become so heavily criticized that a revised version had to be issued, which among other differences removed the statement that the word "race" should be replaced by "ethnic groups". None of the declarations cited any sources as support for the statements.[1][2][3]

1978 "Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice"

UNESCO has after this published several new declarations. The latest, which was published in 1978, completely dismissed the role of genetics regarding any controversial race difference. The declaration was authored by "specialists in human rights" (instead of by experts on race) and was "adopted by the meeting of government representatives by consensus, without opposition or vote" and without citing any supporting sources.[5][6]


The 1950/1951 UNESCO statements contributed to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court race desegregation decision in "Brown v. Board of Education".[7]

See also

External links



  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Race Question". 1950. UNESCO.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Race Question in Modern Science. The Race Concept. Results of an Inquiry. UNESCO Pari 1952.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Statement on the Nature of Race and Race Differences. 1951. UNESCO.
  4. The Race question; UNESCO and its Programme. III The Race Question. Publication 791. Unesco.
  5. Draft Declaration on race and racial prejudice, General Conference, Twentieth Session, Paris, 1978.
  6. Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice. 1978. UNESCO.
  7. "Toward a World without Evil: Alfred Métraux as UNESCO Anthropologist (1946-1962)", by Harald E.L. Prins and Edgardo Krebs, UNESCO