In the first instance of a state moving to compensate victims of forced sterilization, a gubernatorial panel in North Carolina voted Tuesday to pay victims of a state eugenics program that forcibly sterilized more than 7,500 people.
The Governor’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force, established by Gov. Beverly Perdue in March, voted to pay verified victims $50,000. The payments must still be approved by the Legislature.
At least seven of 33 states that carried out eugenics programs have acknowledged or apologized for the policies, but North Carolina is the first to propose paying compensation. The state’s forced-sterilization program, designed to weed out the mentally disabled, criminals and other “undesirables,” was in effect from 1929 to 1974. North Carolina formally shut down its discredited Eugenics Board in 1977.
The rate of sterilizations in North Carolina picked up after World War II despite unfavorable comparisons to Nazi eugenics, and peaked in the 1950s. The task force has estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 sterilization victims are still alive. The state has verified 72 victims.
Impoverished or uneducated African Americans were victimized by many eugenics programs, especially in the South. But the task force found that, although many victims of the North Carolina program were African Americans, the number of Caucasians who were sterilized was even higher.
If the payments are approved, victims would have three years to apply for compensation.
H/T Al Brophy