One of North Carolina’s darkest chapters is creeping into the light, as a state task force has released data indicating that Buncombe County was a key player in a state-authorized sterilization program that ran from the late 1920s to the early 1970s.
Under the program, which was overseen by the N.C. Eugenics Board in Raleigh, an estimated 7,600 people were sterilized. Some individuals submitted to the sterilizations willingly, while others were forced or coerced into losing their ability to reproduce. The board authorized sterilizations for people with epilepsy and other disabilities, individuals characterized as “feebleminded” or compulsively criminal, along with many who were judged too reproductive for their limited economic means.
The task force, created in March of this year by Gov. Beverly Perdue, is charged with determining the best way to compensate the surviving victims, who, according to state estimates, could number as many as 3,000.
The task force is staffed by a new state government office, the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. Newly compiled data issued by that office this week, identifies the number of sterilizations in each N.C. county during the peak years of the eugenics campaign — 1946 to 1968 — when some 70 percent the total sterilizations occurred.
The data show that while sterilizations were generally less common in Western North Carolina than in other parts of the state, Buncombe County was an exception: among the state’s 100 counties, Buncombe had the fifth most sterilizations, with a total of 139.Read the full article