A Maine newspaper has apologized for publishing a heavily redacted version of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on Sunday, after a deluge of backlash from readers, on social media, and even a cable news show host criticized the paper for whitewashing the Black civil rights leader's legacy on what would have been his 94th birthday.
The Bangor Daily News editorial board has run the edited speech on and off since 2011. While some readers condemned the paper for omitting the parts of the speech that explicitly address the links between systemic racism and poverty, this is the first year the paper says it has been the target of such impassioned anger.
"For years, we have published the same editorial on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Typically, this abridged version of one of the great pieces of American oratory, King's 1963 'I Have a Dream' speech, receives little fanfare. That was not the case this year," the editorial board said on Tuesday.
After some introspection, and a conversation with an unnamed Portland city council member who expressed their own dismay, the board said it has seen the error of its ways. It explained that the paper often recycles editorials on holidays when readership tends to be low and that the entirety of King's speech is simply too long to print in full. "The thinking has been that an abridged version was a way to honor King's legacy."
The board continued: "It is clear that this institutional stagnation was a mistake on our part and that our thinking needs to be revisited, especially in light of recent efforts to erase some of the more controversial aspects of American history."
But the board did not offer an explanation as to why the original author or authors of the piece stripped the sections of the speech that directly addressed the violence of racial suppression and white supremacy at the time — sections that illustrate the radical and leftist views that made King such a controversial figure.