Why the Smithsonian Rejected These Black Pro-Lifers’ Request

Earlier this month, we blogged about a group of black pastors who asked the Smithsonian Museum to remove a bust of Margaret Sanger from a civil rights exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery. Pro-lifers, led by E.W. Jackson, found it odd that Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood — presently mired in an aborted-baby selling scandal — has a place of honor in the “Struggle for Justice” exhibit.

The pastors wrote that Sanger had “an elitist attitude toward those she regarded as ‘the feeble minded;’ speaking at rallies of Ku Klux Klan women; and communications with Hitler sympathizers. Also, the notorious ‘Negro Project’ which sought to limit, if not eliminate, black births, was her brainchild.”

The group added that “elective abortion remains the number one cause of death among black Americans, higher than all other causes combined…Sanger was no hero.”

But the Smithsonian has refused the group’s request to remove the bust. The depiction of a woman who said that the “most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it” will retain her place of honor alongside men like Booker T. Washington and Thurgood Marshall.

In a short letter (PDF), the National Portrait Gallery director claimed that the museum is a place to showcase people who’ve made a significant impact on culture, both positive and negative. Black leaders like W.E.B. DuBois supported her cause, and Martin Luther King accepted a Sanger Award. In the director’s mind, support from high-profile blacks makes it all better.

“There is no ‘moral test’ for people to be accepted into the National Portrait Gallery,” she wrote. “Instead, we try to draw attention to those who have made a significant impact on American history and culture, and that includes both the accomplished and reprehensible. We recognize Sanger’s advocacy on behalf of women’s health and education whilst [the director was raised in Australia] acknowledging her sometimes deplorable beliefs.”

But that doesn’t square with what the pastors believe. “How can a person like Sanger, who found common cause with the racial agenda of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), be ranked among true champions of ‘justice?’ She was a purveyor of grave injustice against the most innocent and vulnerable among us.”

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