‘Bad’ girls: Indians posed a tricky race problem for the state

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Railey, John. “‘Bad’ girls: Indians posed a tricky race problem for the state.” Winston-Salem Journal Wednesday, December 11, 2002: A11.


Railey discusses the fact that, under authorization of North Carolina's 1933 eugenic sterilization statute, more than 50 Indians were sterilized. The records of the state's Eugenics Board do not indicate the tribal affiliation of the individuals who were sterilized. Railey discusses two Lumbee girls, ages 14 and 15, who in 1938 were being considered by the state for admission to Samarcand Manor, a residential institution for delinquent girls. He notes that many of North Carolina's eugenic sterilizations were done at state institutions like Samarcand Manor.

A state statute passed in 1933 allowed admission of Lumbees (whose tribal name at that time was Cherokee Indians of Robeson County). But in addition to the racial segregation issue, the records cited by Railey in this article reveal that the girls were also being discussed as candidates for eugenic sterilization. In his report on whether the girls should be admitted to Samarcand, psychologist Harry Bice said of the 14-year-old, "since the girl is mentally deficient and persistent in delinquency, she should be sterilized." Bice's report quotes some Robeson County Indian leaders, including a public school principal, "Mr. Lowry," who said, "If Indian girls at Samarcand were sterilized, it would be a good thing - the unfit should be sterilized."

Bice eventually recommended that the 14-year-old not be admitted to Samarcand Manor. The 15-year-old was admitted, however. The records Railey examined do not indicate whether the girls were sterilized.

Railey talked with the Rev. Mike Cummings, Lumbee, about the racial tensions of that period in history, including racial prejudices by whites as well as Lumbees themselves. Cummings notes that whites' obsession with the Lumbee and race at that time "appear[s] to be folly, less than petty, insane almost" - but it "marked our lives 50 or 60 years ago. And it does linger." Cummings notes that some Lumbee people still exhibit prejudice toward blacks and do not want to acknowledge their black blood. He emphasized that Lumbee identity is based much more on shared history and experience than on race.

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This article was posted to the Winston-Salem Journal's website on Monday, December 9, 2002.
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