Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson


As was seen in Module 5, Foucault’s The History of Sexuality concludes with an analysis of biopower, eugenics, and racism. For Foucault, the invention and regulation of sexualities in the 19th and 20th centuries were ultimately bound up with the racist, eugenicist beliefs and practices of that time period. Taking up where Foucault left off, in this module we will first consider the historical emergence of scientific racism and the eugenics movement in the 19th century in order to explore how the social construction of sexualities and race were interconnected. In the final part of the module we will consider the legacies of enslavement on Black women’s and men’s sexuality and gender. This module will introduce students to the work of three critical race scholars: Ladelle McWhorter, Siobhan Somerville, and Hortense Spillers, each of whom considers the interlocking of racial and sexual oppression from historical perspectives.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Recognize some of the ways that sexuality and race intersect
  • Understand the impact that scientific racism and the eugenics movement have had on the construction of contemporary race and sexuality
  • Explain some of the legacies of slavery on constructs and experiences of Black women’s gender and sexuality