Paper Offers Apology for 'Gross Neglect' during Civil Rights Struggle

Article excerpt

In a remarkable statement one day before the birthday holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. -- and two days before the inauguration of Barack Obama -- the Meridian (Miss.) Star has, in an editorial, offered an apology for its past coverage of civil rights issues.

It closed: "There was a time when this newspaper - and many others across the south -- acted with gross neglect by largely ignoring the unfairness of segregated schools, buses, restaurants, washrooms, theaters and other public places.

"We did it through omission, by not recording for our readers many of the most important civil rights activities that happened in our midst, including protests and sit-ins. That was wrong. We should have loudly protested segregation and the efforts to block voter registration of black East Mississippians.

"Current management understands while we can't go back and undo some past wrongs, we can offer our sincere apology -- and promise never again to neglect our responsibility to inform you, our readers, about the human rights and dignity every individual is entitled to in America -- no matter their religion, their ethnic background or the color of their skin."

In a front page story, editor Fredie Carmichael recalled, in a moving essay, that one of the three slain civil rights workers in 1964, James Chaney, hailed from Meridian. His lengthy piece recounted the episode -- and its meaning today.

The full editorial follows. It is all at:

http://www.meridianstar.com**

Tomorrow, as the nation celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we also pause to remember those in East Mississippi who were integral in the American civil rights movement.

We pause to honor them through vowing to never forget their struggle, their passion, their persistence, their courage -- and what these human qualities have meant to our community.

We pause to remember James Chaney, Obie Clark, Polly Heidelberg and others so important to the struggle for equality who are no longer with us. And to honor those who are still with us like Rev. Charles Johnson and State Rep. Charles Young.

We pause to remember so that we never go back; so that we always move forward for social justice and human rights. …