For more than 40 years, North Carolina instituted a eugenics program that resulted in over 7,000 forced sterilizations of people deemed mentally handicapped, promiscuous, or unfit to have children. The eugenics movement, which swept the world during the early part of the 20th century, claimed that mental illness, genetic defects, and other social stigmas could be eliminated by sterilization. In fact, eugenics is what Nazi Germany used to justify the Holocaust. Although the theory of eugenics was scientifically disproven and most states the program in the 1930s, North Carolina continued its program until the 1970s and expanded the program in 1945 to target blacks and the general population. Over 2,000 children were sterilized in North Carolina during the eugenics program, including a 10-year-old boy who was castrated. Near the end of the program more than 60% of the victims were black and 99% were female.
Now, nearly forty years after the eugenics program was ended, North Carolina is offering compensation to the living victims of the eugenics program. The House and the Senate have agreed to divide $10 million between the living victims of the program, which will be distributed in a lump sum on June 30, 2015. There are estimates that nearly 2,000 victims are still alive; however, only 168 have been identified so far. Individuals must submit claims proving that they are victims of the eugenics program exactly one year prior to the scheduled disbursement date.
Though the no amount of money to forcefully taking away someone’s God-given right to have a family, North Carolina is at least trying to make amends for the racist and sexist program it implemented for more than forty years. Hopefully, more victims will come forward to receive their just compensation.