‘The Human Betterment League’

by Maggie Gallagher

I don’t usually say this, but thanks, New York Times, for this story on North Carolina, which is considering restitution to victims of state-ordered forced sterilization. Charles Kuralt’s father Wallace once headed up a state organization committed to sterilizing the “unfit” in the name of “human betterment”:

Thirty-one other states had eugenics programs. Virginia and California each sterilized more people than North Carolina. But no program was more aggressive.

Only North Carolina gave social workers the power to designate people for sterilization. They often relied on I.Q. tests like those done on Mr. Holt, whose scores reached 73. But for some victims who often spent more time picking cotton than in school, the I.Q. tests at the time were not necessarily accurate predictors of capability. For example, as an adult Mr. Holt held down three jobs at once, delivering newspapers, working at a grocery store and doing maintenance for a small city.

Wealthy businessmen, among them James Hanes, the hosiery magnate, and Dr. Clarence Gamble, heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune, drove the eugenics movement. They helped form the Human Betterment League of North Carolina in 1947, and found a sympathetic bureaucrat in Wallace Kuralt, the father of the television journalist Charles Kuralt.

Just a reminder of what human-rights violations the intellectual class can commit while putting on their white lab coats and asserting that moral opposition is “anti-science.”

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