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One of the astounding, courageous and inspiring individuals whose life is portrayed in “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” a collection of portraiture and biography, is Maine’s own Gerald “Jerry” E. Talbot.

Talbot is well known in our state as a bold, courageous and strident advocate for human rights. An eighth generation Mainer, he experienced both discrimination and blatant racism in his home state.  Nevertheless, after his time serving this country in the Army, he chose to return to Maine, to his home, to raise his family.

We are so lucky he did.

Talbot, known far and wide as a kind and compassionate human who worked to better life for everyone, became the first African American legislator in the state of Maine, representing Portland. He used his time well. To quote the entry about Talbot  in “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” “in his role as Rep. Talbot, Jerry introduced numerous bills and engaged public conversation on a variety of issues not traditionally addressed. Gun control, the treatment of migrant workers, tribal sovereignty, fair housing and creating a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. were just a few.”

In addition, “Talbot sponsored the first gay rights legislation” and wrote legislation to remove the N-word from geographical designations in Maine – because before Talbot, that was a thing. In fact, according to the May 28, 1977, article in the New York Times, our state had 10 places listed officially with that offensive word as part of their actual names. Hard to fathom, until you realize that until fairly recently we were still having a similar debate over names offensive to the indigenous nations.

Talbot also was the founding president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP.


I’ve been lucky enough to hear Talbot speak, and his passion for making our world a better place is infectious.

Given this, it is no surprise that his daughter, Rachel Talbot Ross, followed his example and blazed an impressive career fighting for human rights, becoming the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the Maine House – an office she holds today.

Currently serving her fourth term in the Maine House representing Portland, Talbot Ross is a member of Legislative Council, serves as ex officio of rules and business of the House. She has an impressive list of legislative bills to her name, most notably the creation of Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations. She also secured passage of legislation requiring that bills include an analysis of racial impact.

It’s more than the legislation, though. Through her work, Talbot Ross has created new conversations for us, as a state, to have with each other while expanding our understanding of how historical experiences are playing out in our here-and-now, day-to-day interactions.

Her work has been revolutionary.

Along with the above accomplishments, both  Talbot and Talbot Ross are just amazing, kind and wonderful people known for not only their dedication to human rights, but for being decent and upstanding humans.

Politicians who dedicate themselves to creating better lives for all, and are also decent people. How refreshing.

As we dedicate our time and attention to looking back at amazing individuals throughout history (as we should), let us also take a moment to appreciate and honor those who are busy creating history, for the better, in the here and now.

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