It may be uncomfortable for fans of Planned Parenthood, but it’s true – Margaret Sanger, the legendary birth control activist, was a racial eugenicist who once spoke before the Ku Klux Klan.
The evidence is right there in her own memoir, according to Paul Kengor.
“These are the kind of great lengths to which liberals go to ignore the writings of their own icons,” said Kengor, a professor and author of “Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.” “Pages 366 and 367 of her memoirs, published by a top New York publishing house, she talks about her 1926 speech to the Silver Lake, New Jersey, women’s chapter of the KKK. That’s right – Margaret Sanger spoke to the KKK.”
In an interview with WND, Kengor recounted Sanger’s KKK experience as documented in her memoir.
“She describes the white hoods that come through, the flaming crosses that come through,” Kengor recalled. “Then she gets up and speaks, and she spoke for so long and was such a hit that she didn’t get finished until late at night. She also said a whole bunch of additional offers to speak were proffered by her enthusiastic audience, and she finished so late that she missed the train to go back to New York. She had to spend the night there.
“And people might wonder, why would the KKK invite Margaret Sanger? Because Margaret Sanger was a racial eugenicist. She spoke openly of race improvement.”
Actually, Sanger's autobiography says something much different about that KKK speech than Kengor does. She called it "one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing" and -- contrary to Kengor's claim that her audience was "enthusiastic," Sanger wrote that she feared if she "uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria." Sanger suggests it was conversations after the speech, not the speech itself, that kept her from making the last train to New York, and that was because a local curfew "everything" in the town "shut at nine o'click."
From pages 366 and 367 of Sanger's autobiography:
All the world over, in Penang and Skagway, in El Paso and Helsingfors, I have found women's psychology in the matter of child-bearing essentially the same, no matter what the class, religion, or economic status. Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing.
My letter of instruction told me what train to take, to walk from the station two blocks straight ahead, then two to the left. I would see a sedan parked in front of a restaurant. If I wished I could have ten minutes for a cup of coffee or bite to eat, because no supper would be served later.
I obeyed orders implicitly, walked the blocks, saw the car, found the restaurant, went in and ordered some cocoa, stayed my allotted ten minutes, then approached the car hesitatingly and spoke to the driver. I received no reply. She might have been totally deaf as far as I was concerned. Mustering up my courage, I climbed in and settled back. Without a turn of the head, a smile, or a word to let me know I was right, she stepped on the self-starter. For fifteen minutes we wound around the streets. It must have been towards six in the afternoon. We took this lonely lane and that through the woods, and an hour later pulled up in a vacant space near a body of water beside a large,
unpainted, barnish building.
My driver got out, talked with several other women, then said to me severely, "Wait here. We will come for you." She disappeared. More cars buzzed up the dusty road into the parking place. Occasionally men dropped wives who walked hurriedly and silently within. This went on mystically until night closed down and I was alone in the dark. A few gleams came through chinks in the window curtains. Even though it was May, I grew chillier and chillier.
After three hours I was summoned at last and entered a bright corridor filled with wraps. As someone came out of the hall I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses. I waited another twenty minutes. It was warmer and I did not mind so much. Eventually the lights were switched on, the audience seated itself, and I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak.
Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.
In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York. Under a curfew law everything in Silver Lake shut at nine o'clock. I could not even send a telegram to let my family know whether I had been thrown in the river or was being held incommunicado. It was nearly one before I reached Trenton, and I spent the night in a hotel.
Further, as PolitiFact points out, the women's division of the KKK was not the KKK itself, and biographers note that Sanger was never a supporter of the KKK or even a racist. PolitiFact mentions a writer critical of the eugenics movement Sanger was involved in in the 1920s admits that Sanger was not racist or anti-Semitic.
In addition to their false framing of Sanger as a Klan sympathizer, Kengor's and WND's obsession with smearing Sanger by linking her to the KKK ignores a major bit of historical context: the KKK was a pretty mainstream organization in the 1920s, if still clandestine. One might even call it a conservative group, to hear one description of the Klan at that time:
The Klan promoted fundamentalism and devout patriotism along with advocating white supremacy. They blasted bootleggers, motion pictures and espoused a return to "clean" living. Appealing to folks uncomfortable with the shifting nature of America from a rural agricultural society to an urban industrial nation, the Klan attacked the elite, urbanites and intellectuals.
Their message struck a cord, and membership in the Klan ballooned in the 1920s. By the middle of the decade, estimates for national membership in this secret organization ranged from three million to as high as eight million Klansmen. And membership was not limited to the poor and uneducated on society's fringes. Mainstream, middle-class Americans donned the white robes of the Klan too. Doctors, lawyers and ministers became loyal supporters of the KKK. In Ohio alone their ranks surged to 300,000. Even northeastern states were not immune. In Pennsylvania, membership reached 200,000. The Klan remained a clandestine society, but it was by no means isolated or marginalized.
But you can't libel the dead, so WND lets the smears continue. The article goes on to quote WND columnist Jesse Lee Peterson falsely claiming that Sanger "was a hardcore racist who hated black Americans."