An excerpt from a 1950 pamphlet disseminated by the Human Betterment League of North Carolina, a private group that promoted the sterilization of the state's "mental defectives." George H. Lawrence, superintendent of public welfare for Buncombe County, was the group’s founding president. These minutes of an October 1950 meeting of the N.C. Eugenics Board summarize the decision to sterilize a Buncombe County woman who was deemed "feebleminded." Source: N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation website, http://www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov.

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Press release from the N.C. Department of Administration, shared June 5:

RALEIGH – A bill to compensate victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program was passed Tuesday by House members and now advances to the Senate. It includes Gov. Bev Perdue’s call to pay $50,000 lump sum compensation to living victims, as well as fund continuation of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, which provides services to victims.

“I thank the House for passing this measure with bipartisan support,” Gov. Perdue said. “It is time for the State of North Carolina to show leadership and take responsibility for what was done to our own people.  I urge the Senate to take this bill up soon.”

Gov. Perdue established the Sterilization Victims Foundation in March 2010, as well as the Eugenics Compensation Task Force, whose report formed the core of her budget recommendations.

Legislators spoke emotionally about the subject, expressing both concern for victims and for allocating a $10 million fund for compensation during a difficult budget year. An amendment to reduce the payment from $50,000 to $20,000 was opposed by House Leader Paul Stam (R-Wake) and failed. Many lawmakers recognized the leadership of Rep. Larry Womble (D-Forsyth), who has championed this issue for years. Womble, who is recovering from a traffic crash last December, was not present for the vote.

“My colleague, Rep. Larry Womble, a true fighter and leader, tried hard to get here today,” said Rep. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth), a co-sponsor of the bill. “He had someone call on his behalf to thank you all for your vote on behalf of sterilization victims. I also appreciate it very much.”

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper. “The horrors of history can never be changed. But, today’s bipartisan vote showed that we can learn from history and ensure that past horrors are not repeated.”

The Sterilization Victims Foundation continues to assist individuals who believe that they or someone they know may have been affected by the N.C. Eugenics Boards program. For information, call toll-free hotline (877) 550-6013 for information, or visit its website: www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov.

Angie Newsome

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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