Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced July 21 it will remove founder Margaret Sanger’s name from its Manhattan Health Center because of her “racist legacy.” Some Southern Baptists praised the move even as the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, refuses to remove the names of its racist founders.
Karen Seltzer, PPGNY’s board chair, pointed to Sanger’s role in the eugenics movement that promoted sterilization to supposedly improve the human race by preventing reproduction by disabled people, people of color, and poor people. Sanger even praised Nazi Germany’s sterilization plan in the mid-1930s.
“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” Seltzer said. “Margaret Sanger’s concerns and advocacy for reproductive health have been clearly documented, but so too has her racist legacy.”
PPGNY also said it is working with civic organizations and government officials to rename “Margaret Sanger Square” in Manhattan.
Some Southern Baptists said removing Sanger’s name wouldn’t undo the racist legacy in the organisation.
“Removing Sanger’s name cannot erase the connection between her racist, eugenic ideas central to the founding of Planned Parenthood and the dehumanizing ideology that continues today at the heart of the abortion industry,” Elizabeth Graham, who directs women’s and pro-life initiatives for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press.
“Our country is reckoning with the tragedy of racism and its far-reaching effects on our society,” she added. “It’s important that we do the same with the horrific evil of abortion. Every person, of every ethnicity and race, both those born and preborn, is inherently valuable and worthy of immeasurable dignity.”
Other anti-abortion activists offered similar assessments to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Press. And some even urge prominent politicians (like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) to return the Margaret Sanger Awards they received from PP, and have called on the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to remove Sanger’s bust from its “Struggle for Justice” exhibit.
While PPGNY removes the name of its founder over her racism, leaders at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary refuse to remove the names of its enslaver founders.
SBTS’s four founders enslaved in total more than 50 Black persons, supported the Confederacy, and espoused racist beliefs after the Civil War.
Today, SBTS honors those men with the seminary’s undergraduate school Boyce College, the James P. Boyce Centennial Library, Broadus Chapel, Manly Hall, and Williams Hall. SBTS also sells mugs and other items with the faces of its enslaver founders.
Yet, SBTS President Al Mohler insists their theology was orthodox.
“As president of this institution, it is certainly not my intention to remove those names from either the buildings or from the school,” he said. “There would be no school and none of these buildings would matter but for the founding vision of those original faculty members.”
Some Black Southern Baptists disagree and call on SBTS to remove the honors to its founders.
“By allowing the names of the founders to continue to be plastered on walls and memorialized publicly as men of high moral character, you are in effect upholding their legacy of being theological and practical proponents and defenders of White Supremacy and Black inferiority,” argued Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. “To defend and honor slaveholders is to defend and honor slavery.”
“When did the founders of SBTS face accountability for their racial and gender sins? They did not! When did the founders repent of their racial and gender sins? They did not!” McKissic added. “You are honoring men, who never recanted or repented for teaching and modeling White Supremacy. Why then honor them?”