Boston’s Old South Meeting House

On a recent vacation, my wife and I spent a day in Boston visiting some interesting historic sights. The Old South Meeting House, where we stopped first, was a Puritan church building. (The Puritans never called their buildings churches, as they recognized that the church is the people who make up the body of Christ.) The building held many types of meetings with a variety of famous orators, including George Whitfield. It’s most well-known, however, for the meeting in which 5,000 colonists gathered to discuss the British tax on tea. When Samuel Adams gave the pre-arranged signal to begin the tea party by saying, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country” the Sons of Liberty stormed out and emptied three tea ships of their cargo.

Today, the Old South Meeting House is a museum, with displays for each phase of the structure’s history. These include statues of some important people who have been involved in the history of the building. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, has been honored with a statue for her stance on freedom of speech. She wanted to speak at the meeting house, but the mayor of Boston prohibited her (and many others) from speaking because of her controversial views. In protest, she covered her mouth with a piece of fabric.

While I support everyone’s right to free speech in public places, I think it’s curious that the museum chose to honor Margaret Sanger, an avowed racist and proponent of genocide. Here are a few of her quotes:

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
Woman and the New Race

“Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”
Woman, Morality, and Birth Control. New York: New York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”
Margaret Sanger’s December 19, 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble
I wonder what the curator’s thought process was when he or she chose to honor Margaret Sanger with a statue. Did the museum’s decision makers realize they were honoring a very evil person—one who sought extermination of an entire group of people? Why didn’t they honor the KKK members or someone else who was prohibited from speaking at the meeting house? As a museum customer, I was offended that someone so wicked had been honored with a life-size statue.

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