Against Their Will

North Carolina’s Sterilization Program


by Kevin Begos, Danielle Deaver, John Railey, Scott Sexton


I first heard about this story on an episode of Rock Center with Brian Williams and was intrigued and curious. There were state laws on the books from the 1920’s through the mid-60’s that allowed states to sterilize their citizens. The laws were designed mainly for institutionalized mental patients, but that was not always adhered to. After the world became aware of the atrocities that occurred under the Nazis in Germany, most states either reduced the number of sterilizations performed or overturned their laws altogether. However, the procedures done in North Carolina increased.


Against Their Will is a collection of stories first published as an award winning series in the Winston-Salem Journal. These journalists give an all-encompassing look into the history and creation of the program and the long lasting effects. Their are interviews with victims who were overwhelmingly sterilized without their consent along with the doctors and social workers who administered the program. Because this is a collection of newspaper articles, I found the subject easier to grasp than if it had been published solely as a history book. I recommend it to anyone interested in American history as well as issues pertaining to race and class.

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2 thoughts on “Against Their Will

  1. I was stunned when I found out the US government did this in Puerto Rico. Shocked to read they did it in North Carolina. So, now I'm wondering where else? Does the book mention other states where this occured?

  2. They mentioned that more than 30 states had some sort of sterilization program with California, Oregon, Virginia and North Carolina having the highest numbers. But North Carolina's numbers surpassed everyone else's.

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