By James C. Frasure III – InnerKwest
A book written in 1896 by the German born author, Frederick Ludwig Hoffman” Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro was and remains in principle as the play book for denying African Americans equality in the healthcare spectrum.
Racism played a major role in the opposition to a national health care system over the years. During the late 19th century, some Americans believed that if Black people were not given access to health care then the race would die out.
Many modern day American attitudes and narratives that negatively affect African Americans originated with Hoffman. His writing gave eugenics a foundation and Woodrow Wilson asserted Hoffman’s writing as being truth.
The Myth Of The Actuary: Life Insurance And Frederick L. Hoffman’s Race Traits And Tendencies Of The American Negro
In May 1896, Frederick L. Hoffman, a statistician at the Prudential Life Insurance Company, published a 330-page article in the prestigious Publications of the American Economic Association intended to prove—with statistical reliability—that the American Negro was uninsurable. Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro was a compilation of statistics, eugenic theory, observation, and speculation, solicited by the Prudential in response to a wave of state legislation banning discrimination against African Americans.
Race Traits immediately became a key text in one of the central social preoccupations of the turn of the century: the supposed Negro Problem. Numerous turn-of-the-century tracts (including Hoffman’s) stipulated that minority racial groups were not only biologically inferior but also barriers to progress. Hoffman, a German immigrant, was one of the leading statisticians of his time and also a strong proponent of racial hierarchy and white supremacy.1 His application of mathematical tools to a social debate set a precedent for the use of statistics and actuarial science—two fields then in their infancies, which absorbed the biases and errors of their early participants. Though Race Traits was hailed by many as a work of genius, even in its own day critics attacked its racist premise and suppositions, noting that Hoffman’s sources were problematical and his mathematical analysis flawed. Hoffman’s work embedded racial ideologies within its approach to actuarial data, a legacy that remains with the field today.