For Immediate Release
October 22, 2021
Contact: Courtney O’Donnell
Assistant City Manager
City renames Second Street Park to Talbot Park
BANGOR, MAINE – The City of Bangor will hold a short ceremony renaming the Second Street Park to Talbot Park in honor of Bangor native Gerald E. Talbot. Council Chair Daniel Tremble will present a Key to the City to Mr. Talbot and a sign for Talbot Park will be unveiled.
The event will be on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at 12pm and occur within the park closer to Second Street. Members of the public are welcome to attend.
The Bangor City Council voted to authorize the re-naming at their October 13, 2021 meeting thereby recognizing Mr. Talbot’s many accomplishments and contributions to our State and community.
Gerald E. Talbot was born in Bangor, Maine, the eldest of five children and the eighth generation born in Maine. After serving in the Army and marrying Anita Cummings, Talbot and his wife settled down in Portland, Maine where they raised four daughters. Talbot began a career as a printer for Maine's largest newspaper.
Talbot became a passionate advocate for civil and human rights on the local, state, and national levels. He participated in marches, rallies and voter registration drives throughout Maine, Washington, D.C., Mississippi, and other places in the south. He was one of a handful of Mainers to participate in the March on Washington in 1963, and upon return, helped to establish the Portland branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was elected as its first president.
In 1972, he became the first African American to be elected to the Maine State Legislature. During his three terms, he successfully led the passage of the Maine Fair Housing Bill, the Maine Human Rights Act, and sponsored and got passed, “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Offensive Names for Geographic Features and Other Places in the State of Maine,” eliminating the n-word from a dozen place names in the state. He also worked to expand gun control, fought to change the conditions and treatment for migrant workers, advocated for tribal sovereignty, and created a holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1977, he proudly sponsored the state’s first gay rights legislation, the “Sexual or Affectional Preference” amendment to the Maine Human Rights Act. After serving in the legislature, he was appointed to the Maine State Board of Education in 1980 then, four years later, in 1984, he became the chair.
Talbot knew that educating people about African American history and culture was critical to the understanding of justice and equality so, against all odds, he began collecting artifacts that represented this unique American experience. He visited numerous schools, churches, synagogues, businesses, organizations, libraries, and clubs. He amassed an unprecedented number of materials and information. He even set up an annual display in the rotunda of the State Capital building. In 1995, he donated this vast body of photographs, papers, and material objects to the University of Southern Maine as a permanent way to teach, and make accessible, the truth about Maine’s African American history. This material now comprises the Gerald E. Talbot Collection which serves as the foundation of the African American Collection of Maine. It was his donation that then led to the establishment of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity.
That same year, Gerald E. Talbot received his first honorary doctorate degree from the University of Southern Maine.
Realizing that there were still so many stories and experiences missing from the historical landscape, Talbot took on the challenge of writing a book and in 2006, along with co-author H. H. Price, published Maine's Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People.
In 2020, the Portland City Council unanimously voted to change the name of the Riverton Elementary School to the Gerald E. Talbot Community School, in his honor.
In recognition of the importance and impact of his life’s work, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine granted him an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in May of 2021.
The official citation reads:
Catherine McAuley’s concern for those among us whom society could not or would not see is central to the ministry of the Sisters of Mercy.
Gerald Talbot, you have spent an entire life dedicated to exactly this--opening the eyes of your fellow Mainers and others to the realities of the lives of our brothers and sisters who are made invisible by our economic, social, and political systems.
As an activist and public servant, you have stood up for people in the areas of voting rights, safe and affordable housing, education, the equal treatment for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, the rights of migrant workers, the sovereignty of indigenous people, and for the adoption of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday in Maine.
As an activist, you stood up for civil rights during the 1963 March on Washington, and back in Maine, you helped organize and then served as the first president of the Portland Chapter of the NAACP.
As a public servant, you led the way as the first person of color to serve in Maine’s House of Representatives, as a Legislative Committee chair, and as Speaker pro-temp of the House of Representatives.
Your example reminds us that the capacity and the responsibility to lead is something we all share.
Gerald E. Talbot, for these and many other reasons we are proud and honored to count you among the members of the Saint Joseph’s College Class of 2021.
On October 28, 2021, Gerald E. Talbot will celebrate his 90th birthday. In recognition of this and his lasting contributions to the state of Maine, his hometown of Bangor will present him with a key to the city during a ceremony to rename the Second Street Park (located in the area he grew was raised) as the Gerald E. Talbot Park.
The City of Bangor, Maine is a service center community of 33,039 residents and is the county seat of Penobscot County. Bangor is the major commercial and cultural center for much of northern and eastern Maine. The City is an Equal Opportunity Employer and service provider. For more information on City projects and news, see bangormaine.gov.