National Por­trait Gallery | Courtesy

The National Por­trait Gallery has an exhibit entitled ‘Struggle for Justice’, stands a bust hon­oring Sanger for her work in sex edu­cation and for the estab­lishment of the American Birth Control League. A surface look at her history shows Sanger worked to advance both racist and eugenic beliefs, and was deeply involved with both the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi party.
The evi­dence of such involvement is extensive, per­vasive, and ought to dis­qualify her from being of being honored among those who struggled for the oppressed. Sanger’s bust ought to be removed from the exhibit.
Sanger is most often cel­e­brated for her cre­ation of the American Birth Control League, an orga­ni­zation that operated under Nazi-prac­ticed eugenic prin­ciples, but was created to ster­ilize genet­i­cally inferior races and pop­u­la­tions. Founding board members included Lothrop Stoddard, a Ku Klux Klan member. Sanger herself later accepted an “invi­tation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake,” as she would recall in her auto­bi­og­raphy.
Sanger is also credited with the cre­ation of the Negro Project which aimed to introduce birth control into African American com­mu­nities in an attempt to quell a pop­u­lation that would, as Sanger put it, “still breed care­lessly and dis­as­trously.”
Claims that Sanger only intended to help a strug­gling and impov­er­ished pop­u­lation are simply not con­sistent with her well-doc­u­mented and emphatic eugenic beliefs in the supe­ri­ority of certain white races.
Sanger’s bust in the ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibit sits in close prox­imity to MLK and Rosa Parks, which is not only absurd, but per­verse. Sanger was no champion of justice, but rather an active oppressor of the poor and dis­en­fran­chised. If Sanger can be con­sidered a pur­veyorof justice, it would only be for certain classes of white females who she believed to be superior and worthy of repro­duction.
The main­stream, modern char­ac­ter­i­zation of Mar­garet Sanger as the savior of the oppressed is perhaps the most well-exe­cuted mar­keting cam­paign of the last century. The placement of her bust in the exhibit con­tributes to this mis­char­ac­ter­i­zation.
In 2015, a group of black pastors peti­tioned the Gallery to remove the bust. Kim Sajet, director of the National Por­trait Gallery, con­ceded Sanger’s involvement in the eugenics movement. The signage included with the bust itself sites her involvement.
Sajet claims that “there is no ‘moral test’ for people to be accepted into the National Por­trait Gallery”.
We as a country should most cer­tainly employ a ‘moral test’ on those that we chose to cel­e­brate in our national, citizen funded museums — espe­cially an exhibit show­casing Amer­icans’ efforts towards justice.
While we rec­ognize that “human imper­fection and infal­li­bility” should not be blotted out from the pages of our country’s history, the placement of Sanger’s bust in the ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibit is hardly an appro­priate lens through which to view her sordid past.
Her work with eugenics and racism were not foot­notes to her work, but rather the moti­vation for it.
Sajet claims that her work in eugenics and her work in birth control merely make her a figure of “con­tro­versy.” But, the two are insep­a­rable, not con­tra­dictory.
Sanger advanced birth control and sex edu­cation as a means to further forced ster­il­ization: the exter­mi­nation of blacks, the feeble minded, and other so-called less desirable people. She per­pet­uated the ideas and values that led to the Holo­caust. We must not confuse our sym­pa­thies toward modern birth control with Mar­garet Sanger’s aims.
To refer to Sanger as simply “less than perfect,” is a dis­turbing and insulting under­statement. Part of “setting a path towards a better future,” as Sajet hopes to do, is to also denounce those who per­petuate evil in and against the cit­izens of our country and against common human dignity.
The bust of Mar­garet Sanger must be removed from the ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibit in the National Por­trait Gallery.

Kathleen Russo is a junior majoring in American studies.