The University of Southern Maine has created a new position honoring the state's first African-American legislator. The Talbot Teaching Fellow is named for Gerald Talbot, who served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978. He also worked with the Maine chapter of the NAACP and the State Board of Education.
Throughout his life Gerald Talbot collected and preserved papers and artifacts about the history of African-Americans in Maine. The urge to share untold stories helped drive his collecting, said his daughter, State Representative Rachel Talbot Ross, at an event Tuesday to announce the new position.
“He would load materials in his VW van and travel the state – setting up small exhibits and taking every opportunity, once again, along the way to engage those he encountered,” said Talbot Ross.
The creation of the fellowship aims to bring more attention to Talbot’s collection while providing a position dedicated to furthering conversations about race and culture in Maine.
Talbot eventually began receiving requests to display his collection from schools, places of worship, business, conferences, state and city governments. But, Talbot Ross said, what her father loved the most was sharing that knowledge with kids and educators.
Talbot Fellow Dr. Lance Gibbs says he aims to use his position to share African-Americans' rich history with Maine residents and people throughout the country. He said he wants others to feel just as he did when holding a program Talbot preserved from his time attending Martin Luther King Jr.’s ground-breaking March on Washington in 1963.
The school already houses and maintains that document and the rest of the Gerald E. Talbot Collection, including documents, records, books, artifacts and photographs documenting African Americans in Maine and the broader United States.
Gibbs says he intends to digitize the collection to make it available to scholars and researchers across the country. His other goals including incorporating portions of the collection in university course work and to use it to pursue scholarly collaborations with researchers at USM and other institutions.
The Gerald E. Talbot Collection is housed at the Glickman library.
For Representative Talbot Ross, the fellowships honors her father and his life’s work. She addressed a packed room at an event to mark the fellowship’s creation.
“You see, my father, if you’ve not gotten it by now, is a proud black man who drew strength from learning the truth about the history and culture of his people,” said Talbot Ross.
Originally published Sept. 10, 2019 at 2:49 p.m. ET.