North Carolina to Compensate Sterilization Victims

A new task force urges victims of state-mandated sterilization to come forward.

Posted: 08/02/2011 07:34 PM EDT

Elaine Riddick is comforted by her son Tony Riddick as she testifies before the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation task force compensation hearing in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo: AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds, file)

The state of North Carolina has issued an apology to victims who were sterilized under state eugenics laws and is working on a plan to compensate victims.


Beginning before World War II and ending in 1977, 7,600 men, women and children as young as 10 years old were sterilized under North Carolina's eugenics laws, the Associated Press reports. The state estimates between 1,500 and 2,000 of those victims are still living.


Writes The National Informer:


What began as a medical attempt at better breeding during the antebellum, evolved into a cultural construct that enforced segregation through the sterilization of white females who crossed color lines, and served as an agent of population control among Blacks and immigrants. Social workers would coerce families to have their children sterilized under threat of losing their land, public assistance or custody of the children. Neighbors, rivals and any law abiding citizen had a right and a duty to report "deviant" behavior to authorities, though most often sterilizations resulted from reports of sexual promiscuity or poverty.


Gov. Bev Perdue created The Eugenics Task Force in 2002 in order to locate victims and to hash out details of a compensation plan. Amounts could range from $20,000 to $50,000. Lawmakers closely involved with the case have been working with the state for 10 years to reach a resolution and are unsure when one may come. 


On Monday the task force met with a group of victims and their families who blasted the state for lagging in making a decision. Elaine Riddick of Atlanta, Georgia, who was sterilized at 14 years old, told the AP that victims continue to die every day, adding that the state needs to “get on up and do what they need to do.”


North Carolina is one of about half a dozen states that practiced eugenic sterilization, though it is the only state to introduce a compensation plan for survivors. The task force will submit a final report on Feb. 1, 2012.

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