For all of the protest and turmoil that accompanied the end of the 2013 session of the N.C. General Assembly, give the lawmakers credit for righting one wrong that hung around the state’s neck for too many decades – compensation for victims of North Carolina’s “eugenics” program.
The systematic sterilization of poor women, most of whom were black, in a terribly hatched effort to keep “inadequate” parents from having more children is a vile chapter of state history. Other states engaged in similar efforts, but North Carolina’s program lasted notoriously long – from 1929 to 1974 – and victimized some 7,600 women and family members.
Some of the women who hesitated to participate were “persuaded” by the state through other means. Welfare officials took custody of one or more of the women’s other children to help them make up their minds.
The General Assembly this year, at last, approved $10 million in compensation to survivors of that horrible history. The money is too little too late for too many victims, but it marked a meaningful step toward reconciliation. No other states have offered compensation to the survivors of their own eugenics experiments.
Credit Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders for succeeding where their Democratic predecessors failed. Well-meaning lawmakers introduced bills year after year, only to see the legislation die in committee.
The $10 million is to be divided among the living victims who are left – about 150 people, according to some counts.
It won’t undo the irrepairable harm caused by almost five decades of forced sterilization. But it offers a close, at last, to a chapter of history that never should have been written.