The Corner

Eugenic Philanthropy

Between 1929 and 1974, the state of North Carolina forcibly sterilized thousands of its citizens who were deemed “feeble minded” or otherwise found by the state to be unworthy of having children. At least 27 states had such programs, but North Carolina’s was among the most active and the longest lasting. In the last few months, the state has been considering providing compensation to the surviving victims of the program, and the hearings surrounding that decision have brought out some of the gruesome details.


As the Hudson Institute’s William Schambra points out in the latest Chronicle of Philanthropy, however, one aspect of this history that has not received much notice has been the deep involvement of some prominent liberal foundations in the American eugenics movement, particularly in its early years. In the case of North Carolina, the Carnegie Corporation was especially important.


North Carolina’s state government, like those of most other states that had eugenic programs in the last century, has formally apologized to its citizens for its eugenic program and, as noted, is considering compensation to the victims. As Schambra points out, Carnegie has yet to do the same.

Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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