Easley Is Third Governor To Apologize For Sterilizations
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 16, 2002
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA--"On behalf of the state I deeply apologize to the victims and their families for this past injustice, and for the pain and suffering they had to endure over the years."
That quote is from a statement North Carolina Governor Mike Easley sent to the Winston-Salem Journal Thursday.
"This is a sad and regrettable chapter in the state's history, and it must be one that is never repeated again," Easley said.
Easley's apology was intended for more than 7,600 North Carolinians who were surgically sterilized between 1929 and 1974 under the state's eugenics program.
Easley is the third governor to give an official apology for a state's part in the eugenics movement. Virginia's Governor Mark Warner apologized in May on behalf of his state for the sterilization of 8,000 of its citizens. Earlier this month, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber apologized for his state's sterilizing of more than 2,600 people, most of whom were in state-operated institutions.
Eugenics was based on the racist idea that "undesirable" people should not be allowed to have children. Thirty states had mandatory sterilization laws on their books for much of the twentieth century. Thirty states had mandatory eugenics laws by which more than 60,000 people, primarily people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses, are documented to have gone through the procedures. In some circumstances, girls and young women were forced to go through the operation simply because they were runaways or lived in poverty.
The eugenics movement began to lose force after World War II when people learned that Adolph Hitler used the same tactics to sterilize hundreds of thousands of people during the Nazi era in Europe.
North Carolina, however, dramatically expanded its program after 1945. The state also targeted black women in the general population and gave social workers the power to recommend sterilization.
Under North Carolina's laws the third largest number of people in the nation were sterilized, just behind Virginia and California.
Last week, the Winston-Salem Journal ran an excellent five-part series on North Carolina's eugenics system.