Document 23: Lucien Brown, "Keeping Fit," New York Amsterdam News, 12 November 1932, p. 1, Reel 32, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Document 23: Lucien Brown, "Keeping Fit," New York Amsterdam News, 12 November 1932, p. 1, Reel 32, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


   This column on health issues, written by Lucien Brown, an Advisory Council member who was a physician on staff at the Harlem Hospital, discussed the need for a birth control clinic and described its services. It appeared just after the October 1932 Advisory Council meeting (see Document 22), and Brown likely wrote it in response to the discussion at that meeting of the need to increase community awareness about the clinic. The column, which offered an example of how Harlem birth control advocates interpreted themes in the national birth control movement, also had a strong tone of class-based paternalism. Brown wrote of the high infant mortality rate and poverty in the African American community as reasons why the Harlem Branch clinic was needed. Yet he conflated better health and improved economic circumstances with "higher standards of. . . mental capacity," reflecting the influence of eugenics on his ideas. Compare Brown's perspective with those of African American advocates in documents 17A, 17B, 17C, 17D, 17E, 17F, 17G, 17H, 17I, 17J, and 17K.

Birth Control

AFTER many years of difficulties and hardships, the little woman whose name and personality have been so intimately associated with the birth control movement in America has been able to gain for this most humane institution the endorsement of the best thinkers in the scientific, religious, social and political world of today. This success in part has been due to the method of approach to the public on something which it had always considered harmful and ungodly, together with the evidence produced which shows conclusively the need for birth control and the safe, harmless measures which can be instituted.

   It must have been on the assumption that this community, like any other of the same financial status, needed the facilities of a well organized clinic, that the Birth Control Research Bureau set up such an establishment in Harlem about a year ago. Strangely enough, at the last meeting of the Harlem Committee the records showed an attendance not at all commensurate with the efforts of this unit. There must necessarily be some factors having to do with this apparent indifference which are peculiar to the Negro. Certainly, it isn't that he doesn't need much help along birth control lines. On the contrary, his rather low position in the economic scale of life, which to a marked degree is responsible for the high infant mortality rate, should recommend this group for even special consideration along these lines. The individual experience of any social worker or physician working among colored people will bear testimony of the crying need for an active campaign of birth control among these unfortunate mothers.

   It is possible that proper contact has not been made among those who really need this service. Through the medium of ladies' auxiliaries in churches, women's clubs and parent organizations much can be accomplished in the propagation of some of these principles, which are really protective responses to a complex civilization.

   Birth control to the Negro should be of vital importance, since it offers one definite means of raising him to a higher standard of physical fitness, mental capacity and financial stability. The preponderance of backwardness in the race is too great a handicap and must be taken care of if it expects to enjoy the full measure of respect and opportunity from others.

   For information about lectures and literature write to Mrs. Margaret Sanger, 17 West Sixteenth street, or to the Harlem Birth Control Clinic, 2352 Seventh avenue.


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