Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is This What Wikipedia Means by "a lecture on birth control?"

The Wikipedia account of Margaret Sanger's speech to the Ku Klux Klan states the following:

"...Sanger even gave a lecture on birth control to the women's auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey..."

Below in italics you will see the words of Margaret Sanger as they appear in her Autobiography.

Although no record of what Margaret Sanger actually said at the Klan Rally exists, the words in bold are actual birth control quotes from Margaret Sanger used on other occassions that reflect how Sanger may have lectured on birth control at a Klan Rally.


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...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.

"Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race."

Margaret Sanger. Woman, Morality, and Birth Control. New York: New York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.

"We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."

Margaret Sanger's December 19, 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, 255 Adams Street, Milton, Massachusetts.

"Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need ... We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock."

Margaret Sanger, April 1933 Birth Control Review.

"Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems."

Margaret Sanger. The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda. Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5.

"As an advocate of birth control I wish ... to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the 'unfit' and the 'fit,' admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation....On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. "

Margaret Sanger. "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda." Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5.

"The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics."

Margaret Sanger. "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda." Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5.

"Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying ... demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism ... [Philanthropists] encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant ... We are paying for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all."

Margaret Sanger. The Pivot of Civilization, 1922. Chapter on "The Cruelty of Charity," pages 116, 122, and 189. Swarthmore College Library edition.

"The undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind."

Margaret Sanger, quoted in Charles Valenza. "Was Margaret Sanger a Racist?" Family Planning Perspectives, January-February 1985, page 44.

"The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped."

Margaret Sanger, The Birth Control Review, Gothic Press, pages 172 and 174.

At some point, the crowd of Klanswomen certainly must have broken into a chant of "Maggie! Maggie! Maggie!..." Sanger concludes her account of this event in her Autobiography by noting that her performance earned her twelve invitations from like-minded groups.

In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.


The Wikipedia entry makes Sanger's speech at the Klan Rally sound like a dry public health discussion. But you will note from Sanger's past quotes on birth control that this is not at all how she discussed the topic, and it would certainly be logical to think that she broke out some of her more inflamatory talking points to use on the Klanswomen. The Wikipedia entry also notes that Sanger called it "one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing," but it fails to mention that the crowd was "parading with banners and illuminated crosses."

Wikipedia further neglects to mention that after the Klan speech "a dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered ." Yes, Maggie must have really been a hit with the Klanswomen.

Thanks to for the dead on quotes.


Bret Ludwig said...

Twaddle, twaddle, and piffle.

Margaret was a great woman and you are not.

The Historian said...

As a historian, I find it incredibly disingenuous the way the far- and Christian right choose to characterize historical figures in such ignorant and ham-handed way. You can try to demonize Margaret Sanger--or reclaim Susan B. Anthony or Thomas Jefferson as right-wing ideologues or what have you--but history does not stand with you.

If Sanger spoke with the KKK women's auxiliary because it was one of the largest social organizations of the time, she obviously did so with some trepidation (as is obvious in the tone of the small sound-bite you and others use) and for an audience who did not really agree with her message of women's liberation through control of their own bodies. In fact, though occasional moderately eugenicist ideas proffer minor superficial likenesses, the viewpoints of such women's groups and of the Nazis and other fascists were in most cases in direct contradiction with Sanger and other sexual liberals of the time.

The conservative 1920s KKK and the later German National Socialists, whether politely listening to Sanger or not, thought that contraception by women was a danger to the moral identity of the state/nation/race. Not unlike you and your comrades, they would rather burn Sanger's books (as the Nazis did later) or ban their mailing in US postal areas (which Sanger successfully fought) than actually admit that it's good for women to control their bodies. So... who's side are YOU really on?

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srowitt said...

Margaret Sanger was an unapologetic racist. Planned parenthood was the new name to cover up the eugenics connection that forms the foundation of the modern progressive movement.

Wikepedia is known for its progressive spin. They regularly rehab their heros and this is a case in point.

I suggest that anyone who doubts the connections between Sanger and those of her ilk see the documentary Maafa 21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America. The truth always leads to liberation, but error ends in bondage.

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