North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton said the state can't change what had happened, but can apologize.
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.
House Speaker Joe Hackney said North Carolina is leading the way in recognizing the injustice that happened across the country.