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Sticking with this theme of history as debt we come to North Carolina, which on the basis of "promiscuity" and "intelligence" testing, enacted a program of eugenics and sterilization. The program was not a legacy of pre-Civil Rights or pre-World War II America. North Carolina's program began in 1924 and proceeded afoot as late as 1974. Nationally the effort was supported by big money businessmen like Clarence Gamble of Procter & Gamble


Now North Carolina is trying to make amends for the past, but can't quite figure out how. The fact is that sterilization was perfectly legal, if shockingly immoral. Moreover, eugenics was national program enacted, in some form, in most states throughout the country. North Carolina is one of the few states that's actually trying to grapple with the issue. 

Again, the people who authored the policy are long dead. And we are left to pick up the pieces.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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