Smithsonian Refuses Request from Black Pastors to Remove Bust of Eugenicist Planned Parenthood Founder

By Penny Starr | August 20, 2015 | 7:20 PM EDT

Bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger displayed at the National Portrait Gallery. ( Starr)

( - The congressionally funded National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonsian Institution has refused the request from a group of black pastors who asked that it remove a bust of eugenicist Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger from its "Struggle for Justice" exhibit.

In refusing the pastors' request, the Smithsonian conceded Sanger's association with the eugenics movement and declared that it imposes no "moral test" when it honors Americans by placing their images in the National Portrait Gallery.

“Her association with the eugenics movement shadowed her achievements in sex education and contraception, making her a figure of controversy, one whose complexities and contradictions mirror her times,” National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet told the pastors in a letter.

“There is no ‘moral test’ for people to be accepted into the National Portrait Gallery,” said Sajet.

In response, the black ministers, Ministers Taking a Stand (MTS), pledged to continue to fight for the bust's removal and said Sanger, given her racist and eugenic beliefs, should be displayed in an exhibit appropriate for supporters of genocide--such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Mengele.

"The Smithsonian receives funding from federal government appropriations, other governmental entities and private sources," the Smithsonian said in its fiscal 2014 annual report. The report specified that 64 percent of the Smithsonian's funding in fiscal 2014 came from "federal appropriations," which are made by the U.S. Congress.

In the Aug. 19 letter to the ministers, a copy of which obtained, National Portrait Gallery Director Sajet said: “I received your letter regarding the legacy of Margaret Sanger and respectfully decline to remove her portrait [sic] from the museum.”

“The Struggle for Justice gallery brings attention to major cultural and political figures from the 19th century to the present day who fought to achieve civil rights for disenfranchised or marginalized groups,” says Sajet.

Bishop E.W. Jackson, president and founder of Ministers Taking a Stand, told the group would continue its effort to have Sanger’s bust removed from the taxpayer-funded gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery's "letter avoids the issue and whitewashes Sanger,” Jackson said. “We demand that her bust be removed from the gallery’s ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibit.”

“If they must recognize her ‘historical significance,’ place her with busts of Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Goebbels, Pol Pot and Dr. Mengele,” Jackson said.

“This would put her in her proper historical context with the infamous and evil figures who committed genocide,” said the bishop.

Sajet’s letter refers to a portrait of Sanger but the permanent “Struggle for Justice” exhibit actually includes a bronze bust of Sanger – not a portrait -- alongside images of iconic civil rights heroes such as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Sanger, who in 1921 founded the American Birth Control League that would later become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was known for her involvement in the eugenics movement, a fact noted on the signage on the bust.

Margaret Sanger.  (Library of Congress)


“During her campaign, Sanger became associated with the eugenics movement – which promoted, among other practices, the forced sterilization of those deemed mentally unfit and for a time was endorsed by many of the era’s prominent thinkers,” the signage states.

But Sajet defended Sanger in the letter to MTS as an advocate for women’s health and noted there is not a “moral test” required to “be accepted into the National Portrait Gallery.”

“Sanger is included because, as founder of the American Birth Control League, she strived to bring medical advice and affordable birth control to disadvantaged women at a time when even providing literature on women’s health infringed on ‘obscenity’ laws,” Sajet wrote. “Sanger wanted to give couples the ability to control the size of their families.”

As reported earlier by, in their Aug. 7 letter to Sajet asking for the Sanger bust to be removed, Jackson and more than a dozen other national black faith leaders pointed to her strong support for and involvement in eugenics.

Eugenics is a race-based and Darwinian-based idea that society can be improved through birth control, sterilization, and selective breeding to maximize the growth of so-called superior races and minimize the growth of so-called inferior races.

"Perhaps the Gallery is unaware that Ms. Sanger supported black eugenics, a racist attitude toward black and other minority babies, an elitist attitude toward those she regarded as ‘the feeble minded;’ speaking at a rally of Ku Klux Klan women; and communications with Hitler sympathizers," the letter from Ministers Taking a Stand states.

“Also the notorious ‘Negro Project,’ which sought to limit, if not eliminate black births, was her brainchild,” the letter reads. “Despite these well-documented facts of history, her bust sits proudly in your gallery as a hero of justice.”

“The obvious incongruity is staggering!” state the ministers in their Aug. 7 letter to the NPG.

The letter also notes the current scandal surrounding Planned Parenthood with the release of undercover videos showing top medical officials in the organization discussing the harvesting and selling of aborted baby body parts.

“The fact is that the behavior of these abortionists, their callous and cavalier attitude toward these babies, is completely in keeping with Sanger’s perverse vision for America,” the letter states.

Current Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. (AP)


In a paper entitled “Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda” written by Sanger in 1921, she praises eugenics as “the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.”

She then explains the role birth control plays in eugenics.

“The eugenic and civilizational (sic) value of birth control is becoming apparent to the enlightened and the intelligent,” Sanger wrote.

The basis of birth control propaganda, Sanger said, “indicate that the campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal with the final aims of eugenics,” Sanger wrote.

In addition to a letter asking the NPG to remove the Sanger bust from its “Struggle for Justice” exhibit, the MTS also is sponsoring a petition on the CitizenGo website that has garnered more than 10,800 signatures from people around the globe who support of MTS’s mission.

“Margaret Sanger did NOT struggle ‘to achieve civil rights for disenfranchised or marginalized groups,’” the petition states. “On the contrary, Sanger's advocacy of racist eugenicist policies toward the black community and people ‘of feeble mind’ have been thoroughly documented.”

‘The ‘Negro Project,’ which sought to severely limit or eradicate black births, was her brainchild,” the petition states. “Demonstrating that she shared common cause with the Ku Klux Klan, Sanger even addressed a rally of KKK women and engaged Hitler sympathizers.”

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