A portion of the summary file for a 18-year-old girl from Rutherford County who was sterilized during the state's eugenics program. Click to view full-size image.

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161 victims in 57 counties now verified

Press release from the N.C. Department of Administration, released June 20:

RALEIGH – Due to the joint budget agreement to exclude funding for compensation for victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program, as well as continuation funding for operation of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, the Foundation today suspended intake of new victim verification requests.

The House approved legislation earlier this month that reflected Gov. Bev Perdue’s call to pay $50,000 lump sum compensation to living victims, as well as funding for the Foundation’s continued operation and expanded outreach. House Speaker Thom Tillis this morning restated his personal support for House Bill 947, but added: “There is a very strong message from the Senate that they are not prepared to take it up this year.”

Foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper said the Foundation must curtail intake requests because its current operational funding is scheduled to expire on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Other operational matters will be addressed soon.

The Foundation today confirmed an increase in the number of verified victims, which counts 161 individuals in 57 counties, including 146 living victims. Fuller Cooper said the increase reflects cases of multiple siblings and entire families being sterilized.

Fuller Cooper noted that time is not on the side of aging victims. An updated estimate from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics this month revised down the number of likely living victims from about 1,500 to 2,000 to about 1,350 to 1,800.

As of today, Lenoir County, where the Caswell Center is located, continues to have the highest number of verifications with 24 matches to N.C. Eugenics Board records. Mecklenburg, which had the highest number of procedures of any North Carolina county, follows with 13 verifications, then Wake with 11. Among the Top 10 counties, Buncombe and Scotland continue to have no matches to date.

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. The table below shows a county breakdown of verified victims based on the county of residence listed on sterilization petitions. This breakdown is compared to sterilizations performed per county during the peak program years of 1946 through 1968.

Verified victims of state eugenics program in the 17 westernmost counties:

Macon: 1
McDowell: 1
Transylvania: 1
Swain: 1

Learn more

Read ongoing special report coverage on the legacy of the state’s eugenics program on Western North Carolina and its residents.

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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