From Sat Dec 8 12:00:16 2001
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 23:12:09 -0600 (CST)
From: Marpessa Kupendua <>
Subject: !*AP Documents Land Taken From Blacks Through Trickery,
Article: 131655
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Living in the North Gave Blacks No Guarantee Against Land Grabs

By Allen G. Breed, Associated Press, [07 December 2001]

PHIPPSBURG, Maine (AP)—In 1912, 45 mixed-race people living on Malaga Island in the mouth of the New Meadows River were thrown off their land by the state of Maine.

It was ill considered and it was brutally done, says William David Barry, a librarian at the Maine Historical Society who has written about the case.

Nearly a quarter of the islanders were sent to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded while state workers torched their shacks and even dug up the bones of their ancestors, according to historians and contemporary newspaper accounts.

Most black American families that lost land through fraud and intimidation lived in the South. The story of Malaga, however, shows that living in the North provided no guarantee.

Historians believe the 41-acre island, just 100 yards from shore, was settled by free blacks during the Civil War. For years, they lived unmolested on the island, but as the 20th century dawned, that changed.

The year 1912 was a difficult one in Maine. The state’s shipbuilding industry was waning, and the summer cottage industry was just beginning to develop. About this time, some educated Mainers were embracing eugenics—a pseudo-science holding that the poor and handicapped should be removed from the gene pool.

Locals wanted to get rid of the poor, unsightly colony, but state authorities needed the appearance of legality. They declared that the island was the property of the Perry family, which had been among Phippsburg’s earliest settlers.

Although the Perrys had purchased the island in 1818, an Associated Press search of town records found no evidence that the family had paid taxes on it. The residents of Malaga had lived there for half a century—far longer than the 20 years necessary to establish ownership under Maine law.

Nevertheless, the state bought the island from the Perry heirs in December 1911 and ordered the islanders to leave by July 1, 1912. Residents were paid varying sums for their houses—between $50 and $300—but given nothing for the land, according to minutes of the Governor’s Executive Council.

Locals say no one has lived there since.

In 1989, property records show, the island was purchased by T. Ricardo Quesada of Freeport, Maine, co-owner of a commercial development company.

Assessed at $87,400, the island is barren but for some trees and drying lobster pots.

The island is used by the family for various purposes, Quesada said.

And we think the less publicity about it the better. The African-American Genealogical Society of New England is considering asking the governor for a formal apology for Malaga. Gov. Angus S. King Jr. is on record as saying that if the apology is requested, he will make it.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.