North Carolina’s experience with state-sponsored sterilization has provided the material for a play, which has been staged in Detroit and Nashville, Tenn. It will be produced in Rocky Mount and Nashville, N.C. by the Nash Arts Center and the Imperial Centre Theatre.
“You Wouldn’t Expect” by Marilynn Barner Anselmi of Rocky Mount focuses on four of the thousands of victims of the eugenics program that ran from 1933 to 1973. The title comes from a pamphlet published in 1950 by a group that promoted sterilization. It read:
"You wouldn't expect a moron to run a train, or a feeble-minded woman to teach school. You wouldn't want the state to grant driver's licenses to mental defectives. Yet each day the feebleminded and mentally defective are entrusted with the most important and far reaching job of all ... the job of parenthood!"
The final production, on Oct. 7, will be at the Booker Theater in Rocky Mount and will be followed by a panel discussion with state Rep. Earline Parmon and Rep. Angela Bryant. Also on the panel will be Elaine Riddick, who was sterilized after she had been raped at age 14.
This year the state House of Representatives approved paying $50,000 in compensation to eugenics victims, but the Senate didn’t go along, and so no reparations are in the works.