Forced sterilization victims testify in North Carolina

Raleigh News & ObserverJune 23, 2011 

RALEIGH, N.C. — For more than 40 years, Charles Holt swallowed the shame and anger of being sterilized by the state of North Carolina.

He thought he was the only one.

On Wednesday, Holt, 61, heard story after story of people who also know the pain of being denied the ability to bear children.

"It's there and will be there with me for a lifetime," said Holt of Kernersville.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, the N.C. Board of Eugenics oversaw the sterilization of nearly 7,600 people. The stories of about a dozen of them, including Holt, were told Wednesday to a state task force that will recommend ways to compensate them.

Most of the victims are no longer alive; some of their stories were shared by family members in a packed room at a Department of Agriculture office building.

Karen Beck of Winston-Salem spoke of her great-aunt, Dottie Virginia Bates, who was 13 when she was told that she needed to have her appendix removed. Years later, Bates went to the hospital with appendicitis and discovered that her Fallopian tubes, not her appendix, had been cut.

The state-funded Eugenics Board determined that certain groups of people - those who were poor, undereducated, mentally unstable - were unfit to carry on the responsibility of parenthood. The phrase it used to described them was "feeble-minded." Social workers were employed to coerce people into sterilization.

Former Gov. Mike Easley apologized to the state's eugenics victims in 2002, but no form of compensation has taken place.

Read the full story at

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service