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The Case of Desiree's Baby
The Genetics and Evolution of Skin Color
This case is based on Kate Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby,” a tragic tale of race and gender in antebellum Louisiana first published in 1893. Students read the story and then answer a series of questions about the genetics and evolution of skin color. The case was developed for a general biology course organized around the general theme of evolution. It could also be used in anthropology and biology courses for non-majors.
|Keywords:||Skin color; skin pigmentation; polygenetic inheritance; allele; genotype; Mendelian genetics; Punnett square; evolution; racism; race; racial; Kate Chopin; Desiree's Baby|
|Topical Area:||Social issues, Social justice issues|
|Educational Level:||High school, Undergraduate lower division|
|Subject Headings:||Genetics / Heredity Evolutionary Biology Biology (General) Anthropology Sociology|
|Copyright:||Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.|
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VideosThe following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
The Biology of Skin Color
In this short video, Penn State University anthropologist Dr. Nina Jablonski walks us through the evidence that the different shades of skin color among human populations arose as adaptations to the intensity of ultraviolet radiation in different parts of the world. Running time: 18:58 min. Produced by: HHMI BioInteractive.