About the Foundation
The N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation provides justice and compensate victims who were forcibly sterilized by the State of North Carolina. The Foundation functions as a clearinghouse to assist victims of the former N.C. Eugenics Board program and thereby serves as the primary point of contact for victims, potential victims and the general public who are seeking guidance about North Carolina’s former sterilization laws and program. During 2011 and 2012, Foundation staff also supported a separate Gubernatorial Task Force established under Executive Order 83.
The concept or term eugenics refers to the intentional and selective breeding of humans and animals to rid the population of characteristics deemed unfit by those administering this practice. In the U.S., eugenics was carried out by individuals, nonprofit organizations and state governments that felt that human reproduction should be controlled.
Sterilization is a medical procedure or form of birth control that leaves a male or female unable to reproduce or conceive children.
How was eugenics administered in North Carolina?
The N.C. Eugenics Board program was created
by the legislature in 1933 after a 1929 state
sterilization law was ruled unconstitutional by
the N.C. Supreme Court. The program was a part
of the former N.C. Department of Public Welfare
and petitions for sterilization were considered by
a five-member panel of state officials.
In the late 1940s, the Department of Public
Welfare began to promote increased sterilizations
as one of several solutions to poverty and
In the late 1950s, a dramatic rise of sterilizations occurred amongst White women that did not reside in state institutions and African Americans. Prior to the 1950s, many of the sterilization orders primarily impacted persons
residing in state institutions.
How many victims have been affected by the N.C. Eugenics Board and how many are alive today?
Between 1929 and 1974, an estimated 7,600 people were sterilized by choice, force or coercion under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board program. The exact number of victims alive today is unknown. However, the State Center for Health Statistics estimates that 2,944 victims may be living as of 2010.
Did every county in North Carolina participate in North Carolina’s sterilization program known as the N.C. Eugenics Board program?
Yes. All 100 counties in North Carolina participated in the program. Some counties were more active than others in the sterilizations that were performed. See where your county of residence ranked for the number of sterilizations performed
Sterilizations Performed by County
Was eugenics legal in North Carolina?
North Carolina law during the eugenics period endorsed sterilization of people who had epilepsy, sickness, “feeblemindedness” and other disabilities. Eugenics was a popular movement, especially prior to the World War II, and other states had similar programs. However, North Carolina was the only state that allowed social workers to petition for the sterilization of members of the public. These local social workers would petition the board to sterilize a person, and the board would make the final decision. Over 70% of North Carolina’s sterilization victims were sterilized after 1945 in contrast to other states that conducted the majority of their sterilizations prior to World War II and 1945.
If I believe that I or someone in my family may have been sterilized under the N.C. Eugenics Board program, what should I do?
Persons who feel that they may have been sterilized under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board program between 1929 and 1974 should contact the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation’s Information Line at 1-877-550-6013 (toll free in North Carolina) or 919-807-4270. Callers seeking to have their names checked against Eugenics Board program records will be mailed a Verification Request Form to complete and return. Persons impacted by this program were born in or prior to 1961.
* All verification requests must be notarized. Due to a substantial increase in verification requests, please allow 8-12 weeks for processing after your form is submitted.
Where can I look for more historical information about North Carolina's eugenics program?
You can visit North Carolina's Digital Collection online through the State Library. This Digital Collection includes detailed Biennial Reports of the North Carolina Eugenics Board program and other helpful information .
“Dedication and Unveiling of the Eugenics Historical Marker” program pamphlet – Department of Cultural Resources, Caswell Building, June 22, 2009.
“Estimating the Number of People in North Carolina Sterilized Under the Eugenics Program Who are Still Alive Today” Report – State Center for Health Statistics, February 13, 2006
Lombardo, Paul A. Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v. Bell
House Select Committee on Compensation for Victims of the Eugenics Sterilization Program Report to the 2009 Session of the 2009 General Assembly, December, 2008.
Schoen, Johanna, Choice & Coercion, Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Tables 11-18, Historical Data on Eugenical Sterilization in North Carolina
“Why Me? North Carolina Eugenics Program” pamphlet - Program sponsored by NC Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, NC Museum of History, June 19, 2007