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The Last GaspThe Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber$
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Scott Christianson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520255623

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520255623.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 01 July 2022

The Rising Storm

The Rising Storm

(p.139) Chapter 7 The Rising Storm
The Last Gasp

Scott Christianson

University of California Press

In 1940 and 1941, the Americans remained mired in the Great Depression and deeply worried about their future. Freedom, democracy, and prosperity were very much in peril. Fascism already had swept Italy, Germany, Spain and other parts of the globe, and many of the seeds required for fascism to flower in the United States, some warned, were already planted. European social scientists had followed the Nazis' rise to power with awe. Many Americans figured they had “modernized” the death penalty by having the state take over executions, moving them inside prisons instead of making them such a mob spectacle, and changing the method of execution from grisly hangings to mechanical, clinical, and scientific procedures. Blacks during the Depression suffered disproportionately from poverty, discrimination, and harsh criminal penalties. Ideas based on eugenics continued to exert a significant influence on the administration of American justice, as reflected in the race, ethnicity, and mental status of the accused, as well as the eugenic approaches of segregation, exclusion, and execution by lethal gas.

Keywords:   United States, death penalty, executions, prisons, blacks, Great Depression, eugenics, justice, lethal gas, poverty

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