Second state offers reparations to eugenic forced sterilization victims

On March 20, 1924 the Virginia General Assembly passed two racist laws “The Racial Integrity Act” and “The Sterilization Act

Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act was overseen by an avid eugenicist named Walter Ashby Plecker.

Plecker became a darling of the Eugenics movement and at one point he dined at the New York home of another famous eugenicist Harry H. Laughlin.

Laughlin was an official with both the American Eugenics Society and Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control League

Laughlin was also an unabashed Nazi sympathizer.

Harry Laughlin BCR Margaret Sanger

In 1932, Plecker gave a keynote speech at the Third International Conference on Eugenics in New York.

Among those in attendance was Ernst Rudin of Germany and in 1933, Rudin’s call for racial purity was published in Sanger’s Birth Control Review.

Ernst Rudin Eugenics Nazi Margaret Sanger Maafa21

Later, according to the documentary film, Maafa21, Rudin would be chosen by Hitler to write Germany’s eugenics laws and, at one point, he personally helped the Gestapo round-up and sterilize between 500 and 600 blacks who they referred to as “Rhineland bastards.” After the war, Rudin would be identified as one of the architects of the barbaric medical experiments that the Nazis carried out in their concentration camps.

Walter Ashby Plecker Eugenics racism Quote

When Hitler’s sterilizations were reported in the United States Plecker wrote a letter to the German Bureau of Human Betterment and Eugenics praising them for the action and expressing his hope that not one child had been missed.

Ten years earlier, Plecker had written that African-Americans were “the greatest problem and most destructive force which confronts the white race and American civilization.”

Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act played havoc on couples who wished to marry but were of different races. In June, 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia pursuant to its laws. Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their marital abode in Caroline County. At the October Term, 1958, of the Circuit Court of Caroline County, a grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages.

On January 6, 199, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge, and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.

Eugenical Sterilization Act

Between 1927 to 1979, Virginia sterilized about 8,000 people deemed unfit to reproduce for reasons such as mental illness, physical deformity or homelessness.

The Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act declared that “heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy, and crime.”

The act was based on Harry Laughlin’s Model Law.

Harry Laughlin BCR

Laughlin was an official with both the American Eugenics Society and Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control League and, in 1928, his plan for using forced sterilization to eliminate those who might produce what he called “degenerate offspring” was published in the Birth Control Review.

Just a few years prior, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Buck v. Bell, a case challenging Virginia’s eugenics sterilization law, a model law used by many other states to sterilize their people.

VA Eugenic Sterilization Law Upheld

In deciding Carrie Buck’s fate, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote, “Carrie Buck is a feeble minded white woman who was committed to the State Colony above mentioned in due form. She is the daughter of a feeble minded mother in the same institution, and the mother of an illegitimate feeble minded child. She was eighteen years old at the time of the trial of her case in the Circuit Court, in the latter part of 1924. An Act of Virginia, approved March 20, 1924, recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard, that the sterilization may be effected in males by vasectomy and in females by salpingectomy, without serious pain or substantial danger to life; that the Commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective persons who, if now discharged, would become a menace, but, if incapable of procreating, might be discharged with safety and become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society, and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility…The statute then enacts that, whenever the superintendent of certain institutions, including the above-named State Colony, shall be of opinion that it is for the best interests of the patients and of society that an inmate under his care should be sexually sterilized, he may have the operation performed upon any patient afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity, imbecility…on complying with the very careful provisions by which the act protects the patients from possible abuse.”


“The judgment finds the facts that have been recited, and that Carrie Buck “is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health, and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization,” and thereupon makes the order.”


Holmes went on to state, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind … Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

According to the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, it is likely that Carrie’s mother, Emma Buck, was committed to a state institution because she was considered sexually promiscuous, that the same diagnosis was made about Carrie when she became an unwed mother at the age of 17 due to being raped, and that her daughter Vivian was diagnosed as “not quite normal” at the age of six months largely in support of the legal effort to sterilize Carrie.

The law was eventually overturned and in 2002, Virginia’s Governor apologized to the victims.

VA Gov Apologizes for Sterilization Eugenics

Now, the state of Virginia has decided to compensate the victims of forced sterilization and the General Assembly has set up a fund which should give $25,000 to each victim.

The appropriation makes Virginia the second state to take such action following North Carolina.

The North Carolina effort was due in part to the moving testimony of eugenics victim, Elaine Riddick. Her story has been captured in the film, Maafa21 available here

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