[Picture: Hellen Keller, Annie Sullivan and Alexander Graham Bell]
Along with many very prominent thinkers and scientists of the time, Bell was connected with the eugenics movement in the United States.
In 1921, he was the honorary president of the Second International Congress of Eugenics. Organizations such as these advocated passing laws (with success in some states) that established the compulsory sterilization of people deemed to be, as Bell called them, a "defective variety of the human race".
His ideas about people he considered defective centered on the deaf. This was because of his feelings for his deaf family and his contact with deaf education. In addition to advocating sterilization of the deaf, Bell wished to prohibit deaf teachers from being allowed to teach in schools for the deaf. He worked to outlaw the marriage of deaf individuals to one another, and he was an ardent supporter of oralism over the use of sign language to educate deaf students. His avowed goal was to eradicate the language and culture of the deaf so as to encourage them to assimilate into the hearing culture, for their own long-term benefit and for the benefit of society at large.
Although he supported what some consider harsh and inhumane policies today, he was not unkind to deaf individuals who supported his theories of oralism. He was a personal and longtime friend of Helen Keller, and his wife Mabel was deaf (none of their children were).
By the late 1930s, about half the states in the U.S. had eugenics laws, and the California laws were used as a model for eugenics laws in Nazi Germany.