North Carolina Eugenics Settlement: $50,000 to Survivors
Survivors of Eugenics Program Get Payout
North Carolina has become the first US state to offer compensation to survivors of its eugenics program. 72 such survivors have been located. North Carolina is offering each of them $50,000 as a "sorry we tried to wipe out your family" payout. This is 5% of the $1,000,000 originally sought.
Yes, Eugenics Really Happened in America
Yes, this really happened, even though your high-school history books probably didn't mention eugenics. Around 60,000 people were sterilized across America; the program ran from 1909 through 1977, peaking in the 1950s; you'll notice that the program continued beyond the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. America practiced eugenics for almost 70 years.
Under the guise of weeding out "imbeciles" and criminals, many states sterilized minorities and the poor, not telling the victims what was actually happening. Indiana passed the first state Eugenics bill in 1907, and 32 states ended up passing eugenics laws (Nevada and New Jersey had eugenics laws that were not formally acted upon).
At the Nuremberg Trials, the Nazis cited America's eugenics program as the inspiration for their own mass sterilization project. Harry Hamilton Laughlin, who wrote the blueprint for Virginia's eugenics program, would later go overseas to assist Adolf Hitler.
The state sterilized more than 7,600 people in North Carolina from 1929 to 1974 -- one of many other states in misguided attempts to weed out criminals and the mentally disabled.
If you think that fifty grand is a small sum for chopping down a family tree, you're not alone:
“I think that what they’re doing is unfair, and I think that they’re looking at North Carolina in a cheap way,” said Delores Marks, 60, of Durham. “And I think they’re just trying to have something to present so that they’ll go ahead and approve it and get it out of the way.”
Could be worse, though: so far, all Virginia has done is express its profound regret for sterilizing 8,000 people. Other states will be watching this story carefully: California alone is responsible for 20,000 of the 60,000 eugenics sterilizations in America.