Eugenics victim to be compensated

Janice Black

Janice Black is one of more than 7600 people forcibly sterilized by the state between 1929 and 1974 because they were considered feeble-minded or “undesirable”. Some victims were as young as 10; Janice was 17 when she was sterilized against her will in 1971.

“I did want children, but they took care of that for me, so I could never have them,” Janice explained to WCNC.

For years Janice and her friend Sadie Gilmore Long have been trying to get the state to apologize for the Eugenics program.

“Not only to Janice, but all the other victims across North Carolina that are in the same boat as Janice is in,” explained Sadie.

Black was one of the last victims of the North Carolina Eugenics Board which disbanded in 1974. Black was 18 that year and living with her stepmother. She has a big smile and a contagious chuckle, but her developmental disabilities led the Eugenics Board to conclude that she wouldn’t be a fit parent and ordered her sterilized.

She kept it a secret until last year, when North Carolina state leaders began talking seriously about compensating eugenics victims. Speaking out was cathartic for Black.

“It kind of gave me some relief – like getting a monkey off your back,” she says, chuckling. No amount of money can make it right, but she says what the state has done now – “it helps some,” she told WFAE.

Two weeks ago, on Janice’s birthday, she received a letter from the state confirming her claim had been approved.

“I was excited, not for myself, but for her, and we jumped around the hallways and praised the glory of God,” recalled Sadie.

Janice was happy, but said it didn’t take away the pain.

“I don’t have anything against the money or anything like that, but it’s not going to bring back what they took away.”

Janice doesn’t know how much money she’ll receive yet; that depends on how many verified claims there are. So far, less than 500 have applied, and the state has only passed on 281 claims to be reviewed by a commission.

Eugenic sterilization programs existed in America in at least 31 states. Many of the women forced or coerced into sterilization were black.

From 1929 to 1974, the state of North Carolina forcibly sterilized thousands of people who were deemed to be mentally handicapped, promiscuous or unfit to have children.

Life Dynamics has documented the history of the American Eugenics Society including North Carolina’s forced sterilization program in our film, Maafa21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America.

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