Marker dedicated to sterilization victims

June 23, 2009 4:58:49 AM PDT
Monday, state officials dedicated a historical marker to remember thousands of North Carolinians who were sterilized against their will.The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker was dedicated in a ceremony at the North Carolina Community Colleges building in Raleigh at on Monday.

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton said the state can't change what had happened, but can apologize.

Click here to view a program from the event

NC began sterilizations in 1929 as an attempt to cleanse society of the mentally handicapped and mentally ill.

The North Carolina Legislature authorized sterilizations of patients or inmates of public institutions in 1929 and authorized county commissioners to order sterilizations at the public expense of "any mentally defective or feeble-minded resident."

The program, also referred to as eugenics, continued well after World War II and targeted the poor.

In 1933, the Eugenics Board was created to review all sterilization requests. The Eugenics Commission was abolished in 1977.

Over the years, the state took the ability to have children away from thousands of men, women and children without their knowledge.

"Hopefully it'll bring dignity and recognition to them, because it takes a strong person to come forward like they did," Rep. Larry Womble said, "Most were little boys and girls 11, 12, 13 years old. Now the ugly secret is out and North Carolina is trying to do something to address it."

About 7,600 people were sterilized between 1929 and 1975. A state House panel has recommended that the state give $20,000 to victims of the eugenics program, but it may be tough to pass during the state's budget crisis.

To learn more about eugenics in NC, click here to visit the state library's collection

House Speaker Joe Hackney said North Carolina is leading the way in recognizing the injustice that happened across the country.


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