Virginia Ran A Secret Eugenics Program That Didn't End Until 1979

Eugenics was popular in the United States long before Nazis like Dr. Josef Mengele used it to promote racial purity. Here's some perspective on its popularity: even Helen Keller supported eugenics. But the history of eugenics in Virginia led to a pair of terrible laws that allowed the state to sterilize people against their will and ban whites from marrying non-whites.

The Virginia sterilization victims number at least 8,000, and they include a woman named Carrie Buck who was declared “feebleminded” after she was raped and her foster family had her committed. And that was only the start. When was the last person sterilized in Virginia? Shockingly, sterilization was legal in Virginia until 1979. 

Along with sterilization, eugenicists promoted the “science of racial purity” by arguing that interracial marriage harmed America’s purity. On the same day that Virginia passed the law that sterilized Carrie Buck, they also passed the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made it a crime for whites to marry non-whites. That law would not be overturned until Loving v. Virginia in 1967. But even more shocking, the Supreme Court reached a very different decision about forced sterilization.

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