The Baltimore Sun last week published an apology for the newspaper’s lengthy history of racism which dates back to classified ads selling slaves or offering bounties on escaped slaves in the mid-1800s.
Among other offenses listed by the editorial board were essays that argued against giving Black people the vote, failing to hire any Black journalists until the 1960s, and a 2002 editorial that characterized a gubernatorial candidate’s running mate as offering “little to the team but the colour of his skin.”
The publication also cited Arunah Abell, the paper’s founder and a “Southern sympathizer,” as the original driver of the newspaper’s objectionable direction, writing, “This newspaper, which grew prosperous and powerful in the years leading up to the Civil War and beyond, reinforced policies and practices that treated African Americans as lesser than their white counterparts… Through its news coverage and editorial opinions, we sharpened, preserved and furthered the structural racism that still subjugates Black Marylanders in our communities today… For this, we are deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry.”
The editorial board published the full text of multiple offending articles and ads and also listed ways the paper is now working to make amends for its history of prejudice.
The statement in full: “Throughout its 185 years, The Baltimore Sun has served an important role in Maryland: uncovering corruption, influencing policy, informing businesses and enlightening communities. But legacies like ours are often complicated. We bore witness to many injustices across generations, and while we worked to reverse many of them, some we made worse,” the editorial board began in its address to readers. “Instead of using its platforms, which at times included both a morning and evening newspaper, to question and strike down racism, The Baltimore Sun frequently employed prejudice as a tool of the times. It fed the fear and anxiety of white readers with stereotypes and caricatures that reinforced their erroneous beliefs about Black Americans.”
“Through its news coverage and editorial opinions, The Sun sharpened, preserved and furthered the structural racism that still subjugates Black Marylanders in our communities today. African Americans systematically have been denied equal opportunity and access in every sector of life — including health care, employment, education, housing, personal wealth, the justice system and civic participation. They have been refused the freedom to simply be, without the weight of oppression on their backs. For this, we are deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry,” the board continued.
The Sun went on to shine a light on a lengthy list of the paper’s “offenses,” beginning with classified ads printed in 1837 about the selling of enslaved people and rewards for those who escaped.
The paper admitted it had not hired its first Black journalist until 1950 and “and too few Black journalists ever since.”
It also cited numerous editorials hostile towards Black people.
“The paper’s prejudice hurt people. It hurt families, it hurt communities, and it hurt the nation as a whole by prolonging and propagating the notion that the colour of someone’s skin has anything to do with their potential or their worth to the wider world,” the editorial board wrote.
The Sun also touted the “steps” it has taken to right wrongs, including the launch of a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion reporting team,” “developing a cultural competency style guide” and “forming outreach committees” to improve representation of Baltimore residents.