The Bangor Daily News was raked over the coals Monday by social media users following the discovery that the paper has for more than a decade celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by reprinting a sterilized, white-washed version of the civil rights leader’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Kevin Kruse, a Princeton historian who has become “Twitter famous,” was the first person to flag the heavily edited speech, which has been reprinted by the paper for at least the last 13 years.
In 2010, the Bangor Daily News appears to have started copying and pasting the last year’s MLK Day editorial, updating King’s would-be age, and running its own custom version of the speech.
The intro reads: “As we mark the 94th birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we should take a step away from our divisive politics and recall his defining speech delivered in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963.”
But even that small contribution from an unknown Bangor Daily News editorialist misses the mark. For, as many critics noted yesterday, King was a seriously divisive character in his lifetime. He was bold in his divisiveness, and that’s what made him a reviled character for many Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. That he delivered such a speech despite the threats against him — including threats made by the FBI — underscored his uncommon courage.
So how did one of Maine’s progressive newspapers get their celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and King’s legacy, so terribly wrong, and for 14 years?
It’s not clear who edited the speech and why they chose to remove parts of it altogether, but the redactions seemed to include the more divisive and confrontational aspects of King’s speech. As Kruse noted, the editorial omits parts of the speech on police brutality and poverty.
Left-wing writer Parker Molloy blogged about the BDN’s modified King speech yesterday, and she asked for explanation from Editor Susan Young.
“I would encourage you and others who are piling on the BDN to consider our body of work, not just one editorial, which I acknowledge could use an update,” said Young.
“For example, here is an editorial from 2020 that referenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from a Birmingham Jail,” she said.
Young offered no explanation regarding how the paper decided to censor King’s speech.
Remarkably, as of Tuesday morning, the censored version of the speech is still up on the BDN’s website with no note, correction, or apology.
Molloy’s post includes a comparison of the full speech with what the BDN has published for more than a decade so readers can see what was edited out.
Liberal fans of the BDN reacted in shock and dismay, with some asking the uncomfortable question: How did this run for 13 years before anyone noticed? (The Maine Wire has a few theories, but we’ll keep those to ourselves…)
As if the pile on weren’t brutal enough, Kruse went back into the archives and found the BDN editorial from the day King delivered his famous speech. It hasn’t aged well.
You can listen to the speech here.