State News

Author to discuss NC eugenics regime at Legislature

Posted April 25, 2012 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2012 6:40 a.m. EDT

— An author who has studied state-sponsored sterilization programs that came before Nazi Germany adopted the practice is in North Carolina a month before lawmakers consider compensating victims.

Edwin Black is speaking Wednesday at the General Assembly in Raleigh and later in Research Triangle Park at events co-sponsored by Campbell University's law school. He's authored a history of the eugenics movement in America.

From 1929 to 1974, more than 7,600 people in North Carolina were surgically rendered unable to reproduce under state laws and rules that targeted people deemed unfit to be parents. They included epileptics, those considered mentally defective, and many who were simply poor.

Many state lawmakers have come together on the issue, attempting to right the wrong by compensating the victims of the state's sterilization program. Janice Black, who was sterilized as a teenager, says there isn't much North Carolina can do to apologize for what happened to her.

"No amount of money is going to repay back what's been taken from me," said Black. 

State Eugenics Task Force chair Laura Gerald says she knows it's hard to put a number on the pain caused by the sterilization program, but said she hopes compensation can recognize the state's mistake and help victims. 

"Compensation also serves a collective purpose to the state and sends a clear message that we in North Carolina are are a people who pay for our mistakes," Gerald said. "We do not tolerate bureaucracies that trample on basic human rights."

Gov. Beverly Perdue in March asked victims of the sterilization program to come forward as she puts together a budget that includes compensation for them.

The task force report last year said up to 2,000 of the victims were still alive, though the state has verified only 111 so far.