By Shantella Y. Sherman
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Planned Parenthood, the abortion rights group, recently came under attack from a group of local ministers, known collectively as Ministers Taking a Stand. The group is demanding that the bust of the organization’s founder, Margaret Sanger, be removed from a Smithsonian exhibit celebrating the progress of the nation.
In what Dr. Johnny Hunter, president of Global Life and Family Mission, termed an insult to Blacks, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery pays homage to Sanger in its Struggle for Justice exhibition – placing the self-proclaimed eugenicist’s bust between those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
“The last thing we need is a White supremacist sitting in between Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. That’s just a slap in the face to Black folks,” Hunter said at a rally outside the museum Aug. 28. “I would hope that the curator could understand that.”
At its height of popularity, eugenics promoted selective marriage and reproduction, the segregation and sterilization of immigrants and the poor, and the disenfranchisement of Blacks. Sanger’s American Birth Control League (later Planned Parenthood) enacted “the Negro Project,” in the 1930s, opening clinics in predominantly Black neighborhoods to promote family planning. Several of her personal records, however, refer to Blacks as “human waste” and allude to efforts by the organization to keep Black women from having babies with or without their consent.
At the conclusion of the rally, Jackson presented Bethany Bentley, the museum’s head of communications, with a petition including more than 14,000 signatures, asking for the bust’s removal. However, according to a statement released by the National Portrait Gallery, there are no plans to remove the Sanger bust.
“Sanger’s alliance with aspects of the eugenics movement raises questions about her motivations and intentions. The museum’s intent is not to honor her in an unqualified way, but rather to stimulate our audiences to reflect on the experience of Americans who struggled to improve the civil and social conditions of 20th-century America,” the release read in part.
The Struggles for Justice exhibition is a permanent installation on the National Portrait Gallery’s second floor.