This picture recently showed up on my facebook news-feed.

"Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated." - Margaret Sanger, Founder of Planned Parenthood.

"I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision." - Hillary Clinton, Democrat, Presidential Candidate

"These two have done so much damage to the black community. I will see that I expose these two with every fiber of my being!" - Markeece Young, @YoungBLKRepub, `Republican Thinker' Contributor

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the quote from Hillary Clinton is real, but the quote from Margaret Sanger seems very extreme. Did she really say that? Is there a source on that quote somewhere?


3 Answers 3


It is not an exact quote.

A related exact quote is:

Birth Control does not mean contraception indiscriminately practised. It means the release and cultivation of the better elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks--those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.

Margaret Sanger, "High Lights in the History of Birth Control," The Thinker, October 1923 pages 59-61.

Several years earlier, in The United States v. Margaret H. Sanger, she was charged under federal law for, in July 1914, using the mail to "incite murder and assassination", because she used the mail to distribute the following article, "A Defense of Assassination" printed on the front page of her newsletter The Woman Rebel, No Gods, No Masters, Vol. I, No. 5 (quoted in part):

It is generally agreed that lower forms of life must give place to higher types, and when the pioneer of civilization makes his way into the forest, he must of necessity destroy the man-killing animals living therein. Exterminating warefare is also waged against the savage members of the human race wherever they oppose the establishment of conditions necessary for the development of the more highly organized types. Of course, where improvement by instruction and subsequent cooperation is possible this extreme of annihilation need not be practiced, but unless it can be shown that there is room enough on earth for both savage and civilized, the savage must go

Full text of the article is available in Senate Documents, 64th congress, session 1, vol. 29, page 10891, made part of the record by Ohio Supreme Court Justice R. M. Wanamaker who testifies about the case.

Sanger's bias against people of color is illustrated by her statements about the Immigration Act of 1924, which banned the immigration of Asians, Arabs and Africans, in her speech MY WAY TO PEACE:

(c)keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred from entrance by the Immigration Laws of 1924 (d) apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring....Open the gates of the U.S.A. to those countries whose inhabitants have the inherent talents and national characteristics desirable, eliminating entirely those countries whose subjects have already been difficult to assimilate.

In What Every Girl Should Know: Sexual Impulses--Part II New York Call 29 December 1912 Sanger wrote:

The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.

To further understand who exactly she considered to be the "human weeds" and who the "finest flowers of American civilization" one should read her works such as Woman and the New Race, for example starting in the charter "Materials For the New Race" at page 31:

Among our more than 100,000,000 population are Negroes, Indians, Chinese and other colored people to the number of 11,000,000. There are also 14,500,000 of foreign birth...Fifty percent are of the native white strain...the slums of Europe dumped their submerged immigrants into America...The 1920 census will in all probability tell a story of an even greater and more serious problem than did the last... Do these elements give promise of a better race? Are we doing anything genuinely constructive to overcome this situation?

She goes on to lament the lack of "unmixed native white parentage" and says:

These proportions are increasing rather than decreasing, owing to the extraordinarily high birth rate of the foreign strains.

Toward the end of the book, page 229, she concludes:

In a word, natural law makes the female the expression and the conveyor of racial efficiency. Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives

Another use by Sanger of the term "human weeds" further illustrates:

So far we have not been gardeners. We have only been a sort of silly reception committee. A reception committee at the Grand Central Station of life. Trainload after trainload of children are coming in, day and night--nameless refugees arriving out of the Nowhere into the Here. Trainload after trainload--many unwelcome, unwanted, unprepared for, unknown, without baggage, without passports, most of them without pedigrees. These unlimited hordes of refugees arrive in such numbers that the reception committee is thrown into a panic--a panic of activity. The reception committee arouses itself heroically, establishes emergency measures: milk stations, maternity centers, settlement houses, playgrounds, orphanages, welfare leagues and every conceivable kind of charitable effort. But still trainloads of children keep on coming--human weeds crop up that spread so fast in this sinister struggle for existence, that the overworked committee becomes exhausted, inefficient and can think of no way out.

Margaret Sanger, "The Children's Era", Proceedings of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, Volume IV New York, 1925, 53-58


Factcheck.org says they found no evidence that she had a view like that one.

Cain’s False Attack on Planned Parenthood

Herman Cain has offered an alternate version of history in claiming that Planned Parenthood’s founder wanted to prevent “black babies from being born.” We find no support for that old claim. Cain also states that the organization built 75 percent of its clinics in black communities, but there’s no evidence that was true then.

Sanger says that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.” She didn’t say that she wanted to “exterminate” the black population. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University says that this quote has “gone viral on the Internet,” normally out of context, and it “doesn’t reflect the fact that Sanger recognized elements within the black community might mistakenly associate the Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns in the Jim Crow south, unless clergy and other community leaders spread the word that the Project had a humanitarian aim.”

Wikiquote claims that it's a misquote of something else:

Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.

Unknown source, attributed by Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN) [20] and by Roger L. Roberson, Jr, The Bible & the Black Man: Breaking the Chains of Prejudice (2007), p. 18.

Seems to take words from "a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds" and "we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea" in order to attribute a racial eliminationist position to Sanger.

  • It's difficult to prove a negative but see How should I answer a question about the authenticity of a quote?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 5:47
  • 6
    While this answer and DavePhD's answer are both factually correct, DavePhD's answer expands a bit more to address the heart of the question which is "Did Margaret Sanger have something against so-called colored people?"
    – LCIII
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 16:26
  • 7
    Yet another reason not to take factcheck.org seriously.
    – jker
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 21:55
  • @jker it actually elaborates quite a bit on her mix in with Eugenics in the next paragraph too. Without scanning her mind it's hard to say whether she considered all black "bad weeds" etc. reading more than the title I also get the impression that she held some pretty awful views by modern standards, but also that it's complicated to judge what her views were and how that translates to what she wanted to achieve and even more so what of that still drives planned parenthood leadership. The only thing I'd feel a bit meh about is the title from factcheck, it's not a good summary of the issue. Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 17:12

From 1923 NYT article with Sanger. Likely the quote was altered for effect but pretty clear intent

Succinctly and with telling brevity and precision "Birth Control" summed up our whole philosophy. Birth Control is not contraception indiscriminately and thoughtlessly practiced. It means the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks — those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.

  • 3
    Could you provide a link to that article?
    – DJMcMayhem
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:04
  • 2
    This quote is indeed hers. Without more evidence of her views in the historical context, I don't think the intent is quite so obvious. Sanger, Margaret (1923, April 8) "Apostle of Birth Control Sees Cause Growing Here", New York Times p. 11. (accessed via NYTimes subscription nyti.ms/23TzR6V).
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 0:09
  • 2
    alternative free link to article: sangerpapers.org/sanger/app/documents/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:44
  • 3
    @JonathonWisnoski I doesn't mean interbreeding of races. It instead relates to physical and mental handicaps. See the book Race Decadence: An Examination of the Causes of Racial Degeneracy in the United States, which is from the relevant time period. books.google.com/… Sanger alleges prevalence of such handicaps in immigrants and colored people.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 18:33
  • 3
    @JonathonWisnoski for example Sanger writes that a study found "an overwhelming proportion of the classified feebleminded children in New York schools came from large families living in overcrowded slum conditions, and that only a small percentage came from native parents", in "Woman and the New Race".
    – DavePhD
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 16:20

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