Sterilization is Human Betterment?

Page from Human Betterment League brochure, 19
Page from Human Betterment League pamphlet

Page from Human Betterment League pamphlet
From the pamphlet "You wouldn't expect...," published by the Human Betterment League of North Carolina.

Stirring testimony in Raleigh yesterday from victims of the state’s eugenics program prompted us to dig into our stacks for vestiges of this shameful period in North Carolina history. The Human Betterment League of North Carolina was a voluntary organization founded in Winston-Salem in 1947. The group promoted eugenic sterilization and sought to educate the public about the causes and prevention of mental illnesses and handicaps. Industrialist James G. Hanes and UNC educational psychologist A. M. Jordan formed the group as a response to studies in the Orange County and Winston-Salem school systems that revealed what was perceived as large populations of students with mental disabilities.

With such publications as You Wouldn’t Expect…, the Human Betterment League of N.C. sought to educate the medical community as well as public officials, civic leaders, and members of the general public about North Carolina’s eugenics law. The law allowed for the sterilization of the “mentally ill and defective” with the approval of the State Eugenics Board. Over time the League changed its focus to genetic counseling and family planning. In 1984 the organization changed its name to the Human Genetics League. It folded in 1988.

Babe Ruth’s ejection, Ernie Shore’s perfection

On this day in 1917: Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth, not yet a famous outfielder, walks the Washington Senators’ lead-off batter and is ejected from the game for arguing with the umpire.

Ernie Shore, an East Bend native and Guilford College graduate, comes on in relief, the base runner is thrown out attempting to steal and Shore retires the next 26 batters in order. After considerable debate, baseball officials credit Shore, who later in life will become sheriff of Forsyth County, with a rare perfect game.

The Great Migration, slammed into reverse

“Candace Wilkins, 27, of St. Albans [a middle-class neighborhood in Queens], who remains unemployed despite having a business degree, plans to move to Charlotte, N.C.

“She said her decision was prompted by an altercation with the police.

“In March 2010, witnesses say, Ms. Wilkins was thrown against a car by a white police officer after she tried to help a black neighbor who was being questioned. She was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct….

“ ‘Life has gone full circle,’ said Ms. Wilkins, whose grandmother was born amid the cotton fields of North Carolina and moved to Queens in the 1950s.

“ ‘My grandmother’s generation left the South and came to the North to escape segregation and racism,’ she said. ‘Now, I am going back because New York has become like the old South in its racial attitudes.’ ”

— From “For New Life, Blacks in City Head to South” on today’s New York Times front page

Hyperbolic generalizations aside, reverse migration has been well documented in census data. How long before it inspires its own  “The Chickenbone Special” or “The Warmth of Other Suns”?

Charlotte wasn’t a bottled water kind of town

“When I first came to Charlotte [in 1941], I was the only poor Jew in town. I lived in drab bungalows whose siding often sprang for want of nails and there were occasions when I couldn’t meet the rent for my room in a semi-transient hotel whose curtains were stiff from a decade’s dirt. When I wore tan and brown summer shoes in December, Gentiles thought me eccentric.

“They were right. I was trying to make a living by selling Pure Midas Spring Water to folks who drank Coca-Cola for breakfast.”

— From “Travels Through Jewish America” by Harry Golden with Richard Goldhurst  (1973)

Talk about family trees!

Bettina ad, p. 1

The stables of Bennehan Cameron were legendary throughout the Southeast. At the death of his father in 1891, Cameron (1854-1925) inherited about 6,200 acres, which included the plantations of Stagville and Fairntosh in Orange and Durham counties. Although he helped organize the First National Bank of Durham and was an early advocate for good roads, Cameron’s true passion was horse breeding and racing. According to family lore, Cameron would often sit with a child in his lap in the cupola of the long horse barn at Fairntosh and watch his race horses exercised below. He offered one of his favorite horses, Choctaw, for use by General Fitzhugh Lee during the Spanish-American War. Lee is said to have paraded through the streets of Havana on Choctaw after the city was seized by American troops. Choctaw eventually returned to North Carolina and lived out his life at Fairntosh.

Barbecue, basketball… and Siamese twins?

What is it about North Carolina and Siamese twins?

First came Chang and Eng (1811-1874), who were born in Siam, now Thailand, [corrected] and died in Surry County.

Then Millie-Christine (1851-1912), who were born and died in Columbus County.

Most recently British-born Daisy and Violet Hilton (1908-1969), who lived out their last years  weighing produce at a Charlotte Park-N-Shop.

This celluloid mirror is from an earlier stop in the Hiltons’ heartbreakingly checkered show business career.

We’ve got a new look

You may have noticed that North Carolina Miscellany took on a new look this morning. If not, then look up and to the side. You’ll see that the typography and images across the top of the page are a little different. And, we’ve got some new offerings down the right side of the page.

As best I can tell, we haven’t changed the look of North Carolina Miscellany in more than five years. That’s an eon in high-tech terms. We needed to update a few bits and pieces with the blog software we’re using, so we figured that we’d change our appearance a little bit, too. Mind you, we hope you won’t see the changes as akin to going from mullet to a mohawk (or, for you ladies, going from a ponytail to a bob). This should be more like keeping the same hairstyle, but just taking off an inch or two.

Most of the features are the same. We’re still archiving old posts. But we hope that the addition of a calendar and a pulldown menu listing the months will make it a little easier for you to find them. We’re also still assigning categories to our posts. But, now, the list of categories is available via a pulldown menu. And, yes, we are still highlighting the most recent comments on the right side of the page and offering you links to library websites and blogs.

I’d hazard a guess that the most striking difference you’ll find is our use of the color green – for the background and for our links. Just consider the selection of green as our attempt to get on the bandwagon and go green.

You also may notice a few new images in our header section, the space with the North Carolina Miscellany title and the tabs to important pages on the blog. In the coming days, we’ll be updating the Our Headers page to tell you a little about those images.

For now, though, we hope you’ll admire our new look. And, please, let us know if we need to make some adjustments. Do we need to use a little less hair gel?

What N.C. and Zambia share (and don’t)

“About 30,000 jobs in Zambia’s textile industry have been lost in recent years, approximately the same number that have been lost during the same period in North Carolina….

“The fascinating twist… is that while North Carolina has lost its textile industry to low-wage workers from China, the African textile industry has lost to the high-wage workers of America, who live in a land of such plenty that clothing is given away for free [to charity thrift shops, which sell their leftovers by the bale to African entrepreneurs].

“How, indeed, can anyone, even China,  compete with free?”

— From “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade” by Pietra Rivoli (2005)

Lincoln assassination: A floating clue?

“James Ferguson, a witness for the prosecution, told of finding a letter floating in the water near Morehead City, North Carolina. The letter was in cipher. A translation of the letter, addressed to ‘John’ and dated April 15, was read into the court record.

“The letter makes coded references to killing Lincoln and others, including Generals Sherman and Grant. The letter appears to be a fabrication, but by whom and for what purpose is unclear.”

— From “The Lincoln Assassination Encyclopedia” by Edward Steers (2010)