MCDOWELL COUNTY, N.C. - Between July 1946 and June 1968, 43 sterilizations were performed in McDowell County as part of the state’s eugenics program. Today, a state foundation seeking to provide compensation for what was done long ago has so far been unable to find any of those verified victims from McDowell.
The N.C. Eugenics Board implemented a program of involuntary sterilization that took place in all 100 counties between 1929 and 1974. By the end of the program, nearly 7,600 documented people were sterilized. Many of them were poor, uneducated, institutionalized, sick or disabled. They were sterilized by choice, force or coercion under the state’s Eugenics Board program.
In 2010, Gov. Bev Perdue established the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation to provide justice and compensate victims of this unjust program.
“The foundation functions as a clearinghouse to assist victims of the former N.C. Eugenics Board program and thereby serves as the primary point of contact for victims, potential victims and the general public who are seeking guidance about North Carolina’s former sterilization laws and program,” reads the foundation’s website.
According to state records, 43 sterilizations were performed in McDowell during the peak years of this program, which was 1946 through 1968. McDowell ranked 50th in North Carolina for the number of sterilizations performed by county. However, the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation has not found any verified people who were affected by the sterilizations performed in McDowell.
The foundation did announce Monday an increase in the number of statewide verified victims sterilized by the program. More than 100 people have been matched to state program records and the foundation is encouraging more people to come forward.
As of Monday, 111 individuals whose procedures were conducted in 48 counties have been matched to the state’s Eugenics Board program records. Lenoir County, where the Caswell Center is located, has the highest number of matches with 18. Mecklenburg, which had the highest number of procedures of any North Carolina county, follows with 10 verifications, then Wake with nine. However, three of the counties ranked in the Top 10 for number of procedures have no matches to date.
“I am putting together the compensation plan for inclusion in my budget and I encourage anyone who believes they are a victim to contact the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation,” said Perdue. “They are working hard to identify individuals who were affected, and the steady increase in matches with archived records is an important step in this process.”
In January, Perdue’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force recommended a tax free lump sum payment of $50,000 to living victims and those who were alive when initially verified by the foundation. The Task Force also recommended providing mental health services to victims, creation and expansion of permanent and traveling eugenics exhibits, and continuation of the Sterilization Victims Foundation. The governor’s recommendations are expected to be included in the budget she submits to lawmakers.
State lawmakers are responsible for the final determination of the type and source of any compensation provided. The matter, which has generated bipartisan support, may be among the bills considered during the short legislative session this coming May.
The Sterilization Victims Foundation is continuing to receive verification inquiries from people who feel that they were impacted by the state’s former Eugenics Board program.
If you believe you are or know someone who may have been affected by the program, call the toll-free hotline 877-550-6013 (or 919-807-4270) for information, or visit the Foundation's website:www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov.