The State Boys Rebellion
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A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tells the amazing story of how a group of imprisoned boys won their freedom, found justice, and survived one of the darkest and least-known episodes of American history.
In the early twentieth century, United States health officials used IQ tests to single out "feebleminded" children and force them into institutions where they were denied education, sterilized, drugged, and abused. Under programs that ran into the 1970s, more than 250,000 children were separated from their families, although many of them were merely unwanted orphans, truants, or delinquents.
The State Boys Rebellion conveys the shocking truth about America's eugenic era through the experiences of a group of boys held at the Fernald State School in Massachusetts starting in the late 1940s. In the tradition of Erin Brockovich, it recounts the boys' dramatic struggle to demand their rights and secure their freedom. It also covers their horrifying discovery many years later that they had been fed radioactive oatmeal in Cold War experiments -- and the subsequent legal battle that ultimately won them a multimillion-dollar settlement.
Meticulously researched through school archives, previously sealed papers, and interviews with the surviving State Boys, this deft exposé is a powerful reminder of the terrifying consequences of unchecked power as well as an inspiring testament to the strength of the human spirit.
Middletown. Neither one of them would recall all of what was said. But they would forever remember how they felt. Fred was both disbelieving and angry. The life he had imagined with Abra had been lost. Lost, as well, was his hope that he might have a loving family, like other people. Abra felt confusion, sadness, and remorse. She had known for some time that the communication gap she felt with Fred, what she saw as his inability to express his feelings, would be too much to overcome. But she
work on the thousands of items brought there from across the campus.3 On a spring day in 1992, Joe Almeida appeared at the library door. He had finished his morning bus route and had five hours to kill before his next assignment. He was curious about what was going on in the old Southard Lab. Sunny Marlow invited him in and explained her project. Like everyone else, she had trouble believing that Joe, a wellspoken middle-aged man with graying hair, had been a patient at the institution. But she
Likewise, no record of an inquiry appears in the superintendent’s log from this period.11 With attendants organizing fights by day and sodomizing them by night, running away became increasingly attractive to the boys despite the risks. Undeterred by his first experience, Freddie tried again. This time, he simply walked out the door of the BD at 3:30 in the afternoon and strode toward the schoolhouse. He went in the front door of the building, but then slipped out a side door and dashed for a
males ran and were gone for days before police in another town nabbed them. As the eleven inmates were being pursued by the police, Joey Almeida and another boy sneaked out of the Boys Home and broke into the Manual Training Building. They managed to stay there, undetected, for days. One night, they left their hiding place, stole a cigarette machine from a staff dormitory, and brought it back to the Manual Training Building. After breaking it open, they pocketed the contents of the coin box,
unbroken peace with the professionals who continued to use the shop as a place to make contacts. The peace that Fred established on the night shift was a real accomplishment. White Tower managers recognized his success with customers and his work ethic. A district supervisor tested him by assigning him to other shops and discovered that he adapted immediately to new coworkers and new surroundings. He then called Fred into his office to discuss a promotion. Fred could be a night manager and, in