Eugenic Sterilization laws were in effect in North Carolina between 1929 and 1974 – dates very close to the existence of such laws in Alberta, Canada (from 1928 to 1972), which resulted in nearly 8,000 sterilizations. These focused originally on those who were mentally ill or mentally retarded, and living in institutions. However, this grew to include criminals, the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those suffering from epilepsy, and those who were poor.
The debate for compensating these victimes have been ongoing for some time in the Carolinas, eventually culminating in the creation of a bill that went to the General Assembly, suggesting that each victim be paid $50,000 by the government. In Alberta, a number of cases against the government have been successful in gaining compensation for wrongful sterilization, including the well-known case of Leilani Muir. However, the General Assembly voted this past week against these measures.
The General Assembly cites the tough economic time, and the difficulty they have in justifying spending $10 million when the money is not in the budget. They further justify their decision, saying that history cannot be changed, and that are indeed many suppressed groups over history, including slaves and Aboriginals, who have suffered. These statements have generated even more debate. For more articles and reactions, see links below.
The Charlotte Observer has recently published an article on the story of Wallace Kuralt, a primary figure behind the eugenics movement in North Carolina. The article weaves between Kuralt’s personal story, his struggle to find a job during the depression, his desires and motivations, with the broader history of eugenics in North Carolina and the United States:
Compassionate. Visionary. A champion of women and the poor.
That’s the reputation that Wallace Kuralt built as Mecklenburg County’s welfare director from 1945 to 1972. Today, the building where Charlotte’s poor come for help bears his name – a name made even more prominent when his newscaster son, Charles Kuralt, rose to fame.
But as architect of Mecklenburg’s program of eugenic sterilization – state-ordered surgery to stop the poor and disabled from bearing children – Kuralt helped write one of the most shameful chapters of North Carolina history.
The preliminary report of The Governor’s Task Force to Determine the Method of Compensation for Victims of North Carolina’s Eugenics Board (available beneath the fold) was delivered today. In it, North Carolina State Representative Larry Womble says, at the final meeting of the committee, held three weeks ago:
Eugenics [is] a fancy name for sterilization. I am very compassionate about this issue and have worked on it for 10 years. If I’ve been involved for 10 years, what do you think about the victims themselves and it is a shame and disgrace what has happened to them. I thank the Task Force for all their work. But at the same time, I cannot be timid about this, I can’t be Mille mouthed. I cannot be cute about this because it’s not a cute and nice subject. We did to humans what we do to animals, we spade and neuter animals not people. And we did this to children 10 and 11 and 12 years old, they were not criminals, they did nothing wrong. We talk about we are the land the free and the home of the brave and when we do this to children and I’m wondering how sincere we really are. Continue reading →
The state of North Carolina has recently been revisiting its extensive eugenic past, and the latest move is a statement of support for compensation for sterilization victims from the director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Eugenic sterilization legislation was in place in NC until 1979; there are slightly fewer than 3000 living survivors of the regime of sterilization that was in place in NC until that time.