|Rob Rosenthal records Rachel Talbot Ross & Gov. Baldacci - Malaga Island|
|Photographer Kate Philbrick|
|Gov. Baldacci arriving at Malaga Island|
This story shares elements with something Charles Dickens would write - people living on the margin of society, raising their family, loving and living their lives in the best way they can - are targeted by those with the power and means to do so. Think rumors, slander, forced eviction, death, institutionalization, and homelessness on one hand and survival and adaptation on the other hand. But this isn't set in 19th century London. We're talking about the coast of Maine in the 20th century. We're talking history, not fiction, that took place on a small chip of rock located at the mouth of the New Meadows River in Phippsburg: Malaga Island.
Equipped with camera and microphone, Rosenthal and Philbrick contacted descendants of those who once lived on the notorious island off the coast of Phippsburg. They also sought out descendants of those mainlanders who either supported Malaga residents or successfully evicted them in 1912. Some refused to talk; others welcomed the documentarians as though they had been waiting a lifetime for them. After hundreds of hours of interviews and digging through archives, Rosenthal and Philbrick produced "Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold" which consists of a photographic exhibit, a documentary radio program on WMPG, and a website.
|Rachel Talbot Ross stands at newly-installed Freedom Trail marker|
“The silence about this incident is what informed the name of the documentary Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold…But, now…descendants are talking publicly and we interviewed and photographed several. They speak frankly and passionately about their family history and living in Phippsburg,” said Rosenthal days prior to the exhibit opening.
Coinciding with Maine Governor Baldacci’s apology for the forced eviction, Maine Freedom Trails has incorporated the island into a series of sites interpreting various chapters of African American history in Maine, and descendants have organized reunions and published genealogical information. To mark the centennial commemoration of the eviction of the poor, multi-ethnic community from the island, the Maine State Museum is preparing to open the exhibit “Malaga Island: Fragmented Lives.” In May.
|Looking back at the shore of Malaga Island|
So, in Scheherazade fashion, the series of blog posts that follow will recount my experience with the process of telling a story that people (do and) don't want to tell. In sharing it, I hope to set out stepping stones for others who are bravely tackling tough stories that need telling.