01 Apr 1999 The Big Lie: Margaret Sanger’s “Negro Project,” by Kimberley Jane Wilson
Many years ago, when I was still a first grader, my father and I went for a walk. We strolled past a brand-new building made of shining white concrete and gleaming glass doors. My father had been quite interested in this building, and we often walked past it during its construction.
Now it was completed.
You could see into the reception area from the street. The walls were painted in soft pastel colors. The furniture seemed – to my six-year-old eyes, at least – to be quite elegant. The staff seemed to be entirely made up of cheerful-looking young white women. The sign said “Planned Parenthood.” My father lifted an eyebrow and said something that made no sense to me at the time. He said, “Not everyone who smiles in your face is your friend.” I started to ask my father what he meant by that, but – even at that tender age – I realized that, when my father was deliberately vague, the conversation was over.
Years later, I have had occasion to ponder my father’s seemingly cryptic words. At that time, our neighborhood lacked a grocery store. The nearest thing was a small market five blocks away. If you couldn’t find what you wanted there, the next option was a trip to the open-until-midnight Giant. Unless you owned a car, however, this trip involved taking two buses or paying for an expensive cab ride. We did not have a bookstore, drugstore or a dry cleaner. The elementary school was so bad that my parents found it necessary to make the financial sacrifice of placing me in a private school. In fact, we had little of the conveniences that my parents said other neighborhoods possessed. But, somehow, someone had been happy to provide us with this beautiful new abortion clinic.
We were not alone. According to LEARN (the Life, Education and Resource Network), an African-American pro-life organization, an astonishing 78% of all abortion clinics in this country are in or near minority neighborhoods. Black America is 12% of the general population, yet we account for a whopping 40% of the abortions. How did this come about?
In the late 1930s, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, came up with the idea for the infamous “Negro Project.” Sanger, despite the rosy and saint-like portrait the organization presents of her, was a frank racist. Judging by her public statements and private letters, the woman thought that blacks – southern blacks in particular – were simple, child-like brutes whose fertility needed managing the same way a farmer needs to tend to his breeding stock of sheep or cows.
Alarmed by the numbers of southern blacks who were migrating to northern cities, Sanger and her associates created the Negro Project. They believed that, by convincing black people to limit the size of their families, they would prevent the black population’s numbers from overwhelming those of the white population. It was assumed that blacks – they especially worried about the men – would look suspiciously on any white effort to meddle with their fertility, so a clever fiction was created. Black elites – doctors, educators and even ministers – were enlisted to preach contraception and, later, abortion. Black people were told that, if they just learned to limit the size of their families, whites would come to respect them for their self-control. One day, this fiction said, this respect would lead to greater civil rights for blacks. In other words, fewer black children would equal more freedom.
This was a lie, and a cruel one at that. As we all know, black America’s civil rights were not won by condoms or The Pill. Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the eventual destruction of segregation. The wall of Jim Crow came tumbling down because black America rose up, not because we had the correct number of abortions.
Margaret Sanger’s Negro Project is discussed at length in the book Blessed Are the Barren. Although the Project is not as well-known as the Tuskegee Experiment, it involves the same kinds of falsehoods and manipulations.
Not everyone smiles in your face is your friend, my father said. Recently, I visited my old neighborhood. It now has a bookstore, a drugstore, a dry cleaner and even restaurants. The abortion clinic is still there, and it still looks beautiful with the same shining white concrete and gleaming glass doors.
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.