North Carolina Comes to Terms with History of Forced Sterilizations

Email a Friend
From and

Eugenics laws allowed more than 30 states to sterilize people "undeemed to breed" for nearly a century. While it is irrevocably associated with the super-race fetish and ethnic cleansing of Nazi Germany, the so-called science of eugenics is actually an American distortion of medical science. Much of the murky original research and theories of how societies might take control of their own gene pools to increase the numbers of intelligent people — and eliminate those deemed feeble-minded — took place on Long Island, at the same laborotory where DNA was first identified.

Several of the nearly 3,000 living victims of forced sterilization in North Carolina will testify before a commission today. Until 1974, North Carolina had one of the most aggressive eugenics movements in the country, sterilizing an estimated 7,600 people who were deemed "socially or intellectually unfit" to have children.

North Carolina State Rep. Larry Womble was instrumental in removing the state’s eugenics law from the books in 2003 and in organizing today’s listening session, which he hopes will eventually lead to reparations for the victims. Paul Lombardo is a professor of law at Georgia State University, who specializes in the history of eugenics laws. He's also the author of "Three Generations, No Imbeciles."