Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Margaret Sanger Discusses Her Speech at Klu Klux Klan Rally

Sanger's account of her talk to the Ku Klux Klan

Given Margaret Sanger's preoccupation with race (see previous article), it should come as no surprise to anyone that Sanger would accept an invitation to give a speech to an organization that also has a preoccupation with race - the Ku Klux Klan. Not only did Sanger accept the invitation, but the excerpt below from her own 1938 autobiography indicates the she got along quite well with members of a New Jersey branch of the Ku Klux Klan, eventually getting a "dozen invitations to speak to similar groups."

Perhaps this is because the KKK's ideas and Margaret Sanger's ideas concerning race are so similar. No doubt the KKK must have been happy with Sanger's "Negro Project" which was designed to cut down on the number of black babies being born. In a December 10, 1939 letter, Margaret Sanger wrote to Dr. Clarence Gamble about her "Negro Project," saying, "We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members." (See Blessed Are The Barren The Social Policy of Planned Parenthood by Robert Marshall and Charles Donovan, Ignatius Press, 1991, pages 17-18.)

Here is Sanger's account of her trip to talk to the Ku Klux Klan from pages 366-367 of Margaret Sanger An Autobiography (1971 reprint by Dover Publications, Inc. of the 1938 original published by W.W. Norton & Company).


All the world over, in Penang and Skagway, in El Paso and Helsingfors, I have found women's psychology in the matter of childbearing essentially the same, no matter what the class, religion, or economic status. Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing.

My letter of instruction told me what train to take, to walk from the station two blocks straight ahead, then two to the left. I would see a sedan parked in front of a restaurant. If I wished I could have ten minutes for a cup of coffee or bite to eat, because no supper would be served later.

I obeyed orders implicitly, walked the blocks, saw the car, found the restaurant, went in and ordered some cocoa, stayed my allotted ten minutes, then approached the car hesitatingly and spoke to the driver. I received no reply. She might have been totally deaf as far as I was 1 concerned. Mustering up my courage, I climbed in and settled back. Without a turn of the head, a smile, or a word to let me know I was right, she stepped on the self-starter. For fifteen minutes we wound around the streets. It must have been towards six in the afternoon. We took this lonely lane and that through the woods, and an hour later pulled up in a vacant space near a body of water beside a large, unpainted, barnish building.

My driver got out, talked with several other women, then said to me severely, "Wait here. We will come for you." She disappeared. More cars buzzed up the dusty road into the parking place. Occasionally men dropped wives who walked hurriedly and silently within. This went on mystically until night closed down and I was alone in the dark. A few gleams came through chinks in the window curtains. Even though it was May, I grew chillier and chillier.

After three hours I was summoned at last and entered a bright corridor filled with wraps. As someone came out of the hall I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses. I waited another twenty minutes. It was warmer and I did not mind so much. Eventually the lights were switched on, the audience seated itself, and I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak.

Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.

In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York. Under a curfew law everything in Silver Lake shut at nine o'clock. I could not even send a telegram to let my family know whether I had been thrown in the river or was being held incommunicado. It was nearly one before I reached Trenton, and I spent the night in a hotel.


Margaret Sanger

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