Alabama Newspaper Apologizes for Historic Lynching Coverage: ‘We Were Wrong’

“The Advertiser was careless in how it covered mob violence and the terror foisted upon African-Americans,” says the Montgomery paper

A local Alabama newspaper is offering an apology for its past coverage of lynching, saying that the paper’s coverage of the painful issue had fallen deeply short of where the paper should have been.

“We were wrong,” reads the lede of the piece offered by the editorial board of the Montgomery Advertiser.

“We take responsibility for our proliferation of a false narrative regarding the treatment of African-Americans in those disgraceful days,” they continued. “The Advertiser was careless in how it covered mob violence and the terror foisted upon African-Americans from Reconstruction through the 1950s. We dehumanized human beings. Too often we characterized lynching victims as guilty before proven so and often assumed they committed the crime.”

The article then went on to list various examples of past transgressions. In 1892, for example, the paper described the lynch mob that killed Riley Webb as “orderly” and led the piece with “he is dead.”

The public reckoning — also promoted on the paper’s Twitter account — came as it marked the opening of the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, which opened in Montgomery this week. The much-heralded works were a project of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The museum, situated at the heart of the former southern slave trade, memorializes the long legacy of mistreatment faced by African Americans during that period and beyond. The memorial specifically focuses on lynching.

“Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident today,” reads a 2015 report on the matter commissioned by EJI. “Lynching created a fearful environment where racial subordination and segregation was maintained with limited resistance for decades.”