Maine’s history and present are built on racism. It is urgent to articulate this as the Black Lives Matter uprising happens across this country. Maine needs to validate and enact protesters’ calls for action. We are culpable.

Discussions of race between White Mainers, if they happen, follow a similar pattern. A mention that our history is less entangled with the obvious sins of racism like slavery and Jim Crow. We say there are few Black people in Maine. The Maine Freedom Trail in Portland is mentioned to alleviate guilt. No questions about why there are few Black people in Maine. Indigenous people aren’t acknowledged.

Maine exists because of the forceful removal of Indigenous people from Maine. Until the 1970s, White people violently removed Indigenous children from their homes and placed them into boarding schools to solve the “Indian problem.”

Mainers sold slaves into the mid-1800s. The Ku Klux Klan was a force in Maine politics in the 1920s. Their preferred candidate for governor, Ralph Owen Brewster, tacitly sought their support and won election in the 1920s.

The Klan had an estimated 40,000 members in Maine in the 1920s. Rallies were held at Rumford in 1987. The Anti-Defamation League says the Klan is currently active. Slave patrols in the South created our modern criminal justice system. Keeping Black citizens from Maine was and is an active choice.

History is not static: It actively informs the present. Ending White supremacy, heeding protesters’ call to action, urgently depends on acknowledging our history.

Tyler Kalahar


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