NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has issued a statement saying a bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger will remain in the museum even after a group of black pastors asked for it to be removed.
"Perhaps the Gallery is unaware that Ms. Sanger supported black eugenics, a racist attitude toward black and other minority babies, an elitist attitude toward those she regarded as 'the feeble minded;' speaking at a rally of Ku Klux Klan women; and communications with Hitler sympathizers," the letter to Kim Sajet, the director of the gallery, said.
For that reason, it is all the more ironic that the bust of Sanger is in the gallery's "Struggle for Justice" exhibit, near portraits of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the letter said.
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.
On Aug. 11, the gallery's communications director told CNSNews in a statement that "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."
According to the statement, the National Portrait Gallery said its goal is to put American biographies in their historical contexts through portraiture. The statement also said the gallery is not "a hall of fame" but a collection of portraits that represent the complex nature of American history, including "the admirable and inspiring personalities, as well as others whose lives were complicated and complex."
"We are both a history museum and an art museum, requiring that we see the past clearly and objectively. Margaret Sanger is included in the museum's collection, not in tribute to all her beliefs, many of which are now controversial, but because of her leading role in early efforts to distribute information about birth control and medical information to disadvantaged women, as well as her later roles associated with developing modern methods of contraception and in founding Planned Parenthood of America," the statement said.
Other notable figures that have impacted American history negatively – such as presidential assassins John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald – are also included in the National Portrait Gallery. Neither, however, rises to the level of Sanger, whom the pastors said specifically targeted blacks for extermination.
"Planned Parenthood continues to suppress the growth of minority populations by locating 70% of its abortion facilities within in or near black and Latino communities .... This explains why elective abortion remains the number one cause of death among black Americans, higher than all other causes combined. We will not remain silent while the National Portrait Gallery venerates someone who sought to eradicate our very existence. Ms. Sanger was a racist, elitist, and her beliefs led to massive destruction of unborn human life. She was no hero," the letter from the pastors said.
To date, the pastors have not issued a new statement on the National Portrait Gallery's decision to keep the bust of Margaret Sanger on display.