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- Feb 2022
The Baltimore Sun begins grappling with its dark history.
Several years would pass, and a new editor-in-chief would ascend, before the paper eliminated the automatic race tags, in 1961, under pressure from readers who were sick of them.
At that time, The Sun was still choosing to identify Black people by race in its coverage — and only Black people — placing the tag “Negro” after individual names, even though many other newspapers had long since stopped similar practices. When a Westminster minister and seminary professor asked the paper to discard “this discriminatory practice” in 1955, according to an article in The Afro-American, the editor-in-chief flat out refused, self-righteously declaring that “the Sunpapers will not be a party to such suppression” of fact and that “the matter of what it is now fashionable to call ‘pigmentation’ is important from both the white and the Negro point of view.”
But the coverage, as our editorial page later noted in 2018, “deplored the inhumanity of the perpetrators without ever really acknowledging the humanity of the victims” or the community terrorized by their brutal deaths. The ire was directed at the “poor, white trash” killers, as Mencken put it; there was no empathy for — or even real interest in — the Black victims.
The next year, the paper wrote glowingly in its news pages of a segregation ordinance — “preventing negroes from moving” into majority-white neighborhoods and vice versa — signed into law in 1910. The measure was drafted, one article claimed, after white residents in the northwest section of the city decried “the encroachment of the negroes into white residential sections, lowering property values and driving white people from the neighborhoods in which, previous to the black invasion, they had liked to live.” As Antero Pietila, a former Sun reporter, noted in his 2010 book, “Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City,” that particular ordinance paved the way for residential segregation in America. Nothing else like it was on the books anywhere, and legislation modeled after it soon sprung up in other regions of the country.
A segregation ordinance in 1910 in Maryland became a model for legislation in many areas of America which encouraged residential segregation across the country.
- automatic race tags
- real estate
- diversity equity and inclusion
- structural racism
- racist policies
- Baltimore Sun