MALAGA ISLAND, Maine – It was, in all likelihood, a record crowd. Never before in its documented history had anywhere near 90 people gathered at the same time on this craggy, wooded island at the mouth of the New Meadows River
Yet here they stood Sunday afternoon – elected officials, archaeologists, journalists, human rights activists and, most notably, descendants of the mixed-race families who once called this 41-acre island home – all to hear two simple words.
“To the descendants of Benjamin Darling, let me just say that I’m sorry,” said Gov. John Baldacci as a late-summer breeze whispered through the spruce trees. “I’m sorry for what was done. It wasn’t right and we were raised better than that. We’re better people than that.”
Maybe you’ve heard the story of Malaga Island – and then again, maybe you haven’t.
It’s not pleasant.
Just a few hundred yards from Phippsburg’s western shoreline, Malaga Island was home in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to anywhere from 25 to 40 people who lived in dirt-floor, ramshackle homes and eked out a living fishing the tides in the New Meadows River and doing whatever menial work they could find on the mainland.
Most traced their lineage to Benjamin Darling, a black man who had bought and settled on a nearby island in 1794. Some were black, others were white, still others were a mixture of the two.
Click for the rest of the column by Bill Nemitz in the Portland Press Herald.