Eugenics in North Carolina
By: Alexus White,
Sarah Reichard, Samuel Villeda, Ruby Jaen
Eugenics is the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.
The North Carolina Eugenics Board sterilized more than 7,600 men, women, and children often because they were poor or mentally ill.
North Carolina is the first state to compensate people who have been sterilized against their will.
Elaine Riddick Jessie: Sterilized in 1968. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina argued that Elaine was "feeble-minded" and "promiscuous". Before sterilization, when she was 13, Jessie had been kidnapped, molested, and raped. Her son, Tony Riddick said "The work of the Eugenics Board was not far from the thinking of Hitler." In 2003, when she spoke out to the eugenics board, she said, "When you're a little girl, what do you want? You want to be a mommy. To find out that's been taken away from you is devastating."
When Charles Holt was a teenager, now 62, he fought at school. A social worker wrote he and his parents were “low mentality”. He was then sent to a home for people with mental problems. When Holt become an adult and was ready to move out, the Eugenics Board of North Carolina said he should first have a vasectomy. The board said it was a way of protecting Charles if he was falsely accused having helped father a child. The board operated from 1933 to 1977 as an experiment in genetic engineering. It was once considered legitimate way to keep welfare small, stop poverty and improve the gene pool. Thousands in North Carolina are now waiting to be compensated. Virginia and California sterilized more people than North Carolina.
1971 when Janice Back was 18, Her stepmother thought she was not capable of raising her own kids. Janice Back stepmother took her to the hospital in Charlotte and without her permission had her to be sterilized. Janice wasn't able to have children ever. Janice was one of the last victims of sterilization.
The sterilization of any patient or inmate as best interest of individual or public good was passed in 1999 by NC General Assembly. The Eugenics Board of NC was created to review cases involving sterilization, of mentally diseased, feeble-minded, etc. The board reviews and approves orders which often include a medical and family history of patient/inmate. In patient hearings they have a representor (kin or guardian) if they can’t defend for themselves and the prosecutor is usually the head of institution. Factors that are considered are the individuals mental, moral or physical health. Orders for sterilization have to be signed by at least three members of board and returned to prosecutor.
Elnora Mills went into surgery to fix her busted appendix when she was 16 years old. The 62 year old woman now lives with cancer and seizures in Brunswick County. During her surgery without her consent, the surgeons sterilized her. She was never able to give birth.
Cites: Julie, Rose. "North Carolina Eugenics Victims Not Giving Up." All Things Considered (NPR) (2012): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Drabold, Will. "Bill to compensate forced sterilization victims moves forward." Star-News (Wilmington, NC) 23 July 2013: Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
"North Carolina." Eugenics in North Carolina. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.