Walter Hoye

The Negro Project (1939-1942)

In Abortion on August 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm

The Negro Project (1939-1942)

According to Planned Parenthood, the American Birth Control League and the Clinical Research Bureau (CRB) merge to form the Birth Control Federation of America. The federation’s outreach to the African-American community moves to the rural South. W.E.B. DuBois serves on the advisory council for the “Negro Project,” which is designed and financed by Sanger but is quickly taken over by county and state health departments. In 1939, the “Negro Project” was designed in response to “southern state public health officials,” men not generally known for racial equality. The proposal went on to say that “Public Health statistics merely hint at the primitive state of civilization in which most Negroes in the South live” (Linda Gordon, Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, New York: Penguin, 1974, pp. 332.). Apparently, government backed health care for the poor that includes birth control is not a new idea nor is it a “change” in direction.

Indifferent to the Real Needs of the Black Community

Strongly moved and financially supported by the eugenics movement and the United States Government’s progressive welfare programs of the New Deal era, the Negro Project was from the start entirely indifferent to the real needs of the black community (i.e., equal access to education, jobs and the American dream). According to Margaret Sanger who instigated the Negro Project: “The mass of Negroes,” the project proposal asserted, “particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than Whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit.” From Sanger’s perspective the Negro Project was an effort to help Negroes gain access to safe contraception and maintain birth control services in their community (Margaret Sanger to Mary Lasker, July 10, 1939, Mary Lasker Papers, Columbia University). Hmmm … “help Negroes gain access to safe contraception and maintain birth control services in their community” sounds so familiar to me. I wonder where I have heard this before?

Supported By Prominent Black Leadership

The Negro Project was widely supported by black leaders such as Mary McLeod Bethune, W. E. B. DuBois, and the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Recruiting the support of Black leadership was in fact a part of Margaret Sanger’s plan. Sanger needed the buy-in of the Black leaders to legitimize her project and silence the voices of other Black men and women who stood up and spoke up in opposition to Sanger’s stated goals for birth control. According to Margaret Sanger “birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian Churches” (Quoted in David Goldstein, Suicide Bent: Sangerizing America, St. Paul: Radio Replies Press, 1945, p. 103.). Next week I’ll talk more about Black leadership’s involvement in the Negro Project.

Brothers, we really need to talk.


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