This Week: 1/2

Although technology may, overall, be destroying our collective attention span, the internet has also brought us new ways of telling stories. And the startling popularity of podcasts is proof that many of us are still hungry for a slower kind of media, one that pauses to examine the esoteric, interesting, and complex stories that don’t make it into our social media news feeds.

In this issue, we take a look at how area residents are using this medium to dig into everything from the latest neurology research to the lives of returning veterans, from food and fashion to the history that underlies our current debates.

In News this week, we note the planned closing of the Central Virginia Training Center outside of Lynchburg, once infamous for the forced sterilization of more than 4,000 Virginians deemed to be “feeble-minded.” Among them was Charlottesville resident Carrie Buck, whose sterilization was made into a test case for Virginia’s new eugenics laws, and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

We’ve written previously about prominent eugenicists at UVA, who declared African Americans to be genetically inferior to whites. But eugenics also extended to anyone seen as “different,” including women and poor people.

Carrie Buck’s mother was declared to be feeble-minded and institutionalized in Lynchburg largely because she had a child out of wedlock. Years later, Carrie was sent there herself, committed by her foster parents after they discovered she’d been raped by their nephew and was pregnant. (Like her mother, Carrie was accused of being feeble-minded and promiscuous.) Carrie’s baby was taken from her, and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. declared that “three generations of imbeciles is enough,” sanctioning her sterilization.

This fascinating story is told in Encyclopedia Virginia’s Not Even Past podcast, which includes an interview with researcher Paul Lombardo, who visited Carrie late in life (he found her working on her daily crossword puzzle). “The same kinds of impulses that led her to her victimization are still around today,” he says. “When times are difficult, we will find scapegoats.” That’s why we need these stories. —Laura Longhine