Anténor Firmin challenged anthropology’s racist roots 150 years ago

The Haitian scholar showed that science didn’t support white supremacy

A photo of Anténor Firmin in black and white overlayed on a tan background.

When Anténor Firmin joined one of the first anthropological societies in Europe, racist views had become foundational to the field.

History and Art Collection/Alamy

At the end of the 19th century, one of the hottest debates among anthropologists was whether human beings originated from a single ancestor or many (the answer: just one). Members of both camps, though, largely agreed that whatever their origins, some races were superior to others.