Historians use both primary and secondary sources to learn about history. For Vermont History Day, YOU get to be the historian who develops a thesis, analyzes primary and secondary sources, and uses evidence to support your argument.
For a topic inspired by current events but connected to the theme of “Communications in History: The Key to Understanding,” you could explore how systemic racism has been communicated in Vermont by learning more about the Eugenics Survey in the 1920s and 1930s. The Eugenics Survey targeted groups of Vermonters, especially Abenaki citizens, French-Canadians and poor residents, and caused lasting harm through forced sterilizations and disruptions of families and traditions.
For the larger overview, it can be helpful to start with secondary sources:
- Journal article: From Degeneration to Regeneration: The Eugenics Survey of Vermont, 1925-1936 by Kevin Dann (1991)
- Book: Breeding Better Vermonters: the Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State by Nancy Gallagher (1999)
- Website: Vermont Eugenics: A Documentary History (2001)
Based on your research, you want to understand the context of the Eugenics Survey, a project of the Vermont Commission on Country Life. Primary sources are a great way to explore the language people were using to communicate ideas at that time.
How were Vermonters describing their state? How did they want to change the state? How is the survey described? How are Vermonters impacted by information included in the survey? Can you find evidence of racism in the language used in these records?
- Digitized Book: Rural Vermont, A Program for the Future by Two Hundred Vermonters (1931) digitized version
- Vermont Historical Society research library: Annual Report of the Eugenics Survey of Vermont (1927-1931)
- Vermont State Archives: Eugenics Survey and the Vermont Commission on Country Life Records, with Finding Aid to explain what materials are in the archives
- Website: The Eugenics Survey in Vermont: Inside the Survey Plans, Problems, & Strategies
What was the short term impact? What was the long term impact?
- Video: Background for Living (1950s)
- Video: Gypsies or Pirates? The Vermont Eugenics Survey by Judy Dow (2013)
- Newspaper article: UVM Apologizes for a Eugenics Survey that Ended in 1936 (2019)
- Newspaper article: Abenaki Leader Reflects on effects of Eugenics Movement (2020)
What is the significance of a program in the 1920s and 1930s? That’s for you to determine and to demonstrate using evidence from the primary and secondary sources that you can find online and in libraries and archives. Good luck choosing a topic and conducting your research!
Here is a sample of an annotated bibliography for a few of these sources.