Our Vacation to Maine - A Surprising Lesson of Pain and Hope

My wife and I recently spent a wonderful week in Maine visiting long time friends and ministry colleagues. We left the high heat and humidity of Washington, DC for the cool clear summer days of coastal Maine. I expected that part of our trip. What I did not expect was learning about and visiting the site of a major episode of racial injustice against African-Americans in the most northern and perhaps the whitest state of the union. One morning our friend Karen pointed out an article in the Portland Press Herald about the dedication of a monument that afternoon at a small rural cemetery. Later that day, Vickie and I visited the cemetery with its new monument. It commemorates the lives of African Americans who were displaced from the mixed race fishing community of Malaga Island in 1912 after the state of Maine ordered the eviction of the entire community and committed eight African Americans to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded against their will. Most of them died there within a year. This was considered normal behavior by the state at that time because of the prevalence of the fake racial "science" of the Eugenics movement. The cruelty and injustice of this tragic story was forgotten or ignored for decades. Finally in 2010, the governor of Maine issued an official apology, and in 2012  there was a major exhibit about Malaga Island at Maine's state history museum in Augusta. The video below tells the story up to that point, and I urge you to take the time to watch it.   

As I stood in that cemetery facing the graves of those victims of racial injustice and the new monument in their memory, I felt a renewed calling and commitment to the ministry of racial justice/reconciliation. In the words of Marnie Voter one of the descendants of Malaga Island who appears in the video, "An old political slogan was, 'As Maine goes, so goes the nation.' So all these little injustices everywhere, let the nation rise up and say 'Wrong!' I don't care if it was 100 or 150 years ago - Wrong. And let's do it right." The pain of our nation's racial history is all around us. So is the hope of healing if we are willing to face that pain and move forward in the love and justice of God.

Here is a link to the article that started this surprising part of our Maine vacation.