April 22, 2018
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MCLU honors Portland chapter NAACP president

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP is the recipient of the Maine Civil Liberties Union’s annual Roger Baldwin Award.

Rachel Talbot Ross, 48, of Portland was selected for the award because of her longstanding work on civil rights and civil liberties, according to an MCLU press release.

The award will be presented at 6 p.m. today at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. A similar event will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Bangor Public Library.

Talbot Ross has been president of the Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 2005.

Her father, Gerald Talbot, 77, of Portland was the group’s first president after its founding in 1964. He also was the first black legislator in Maine history when he was elected in 1972.

Talbot Ross is director of Equal Opportunity and Multicultural Affairs for the city of Portland.

“Rachel is an extraordinary and gifted leader, working on so many important civil rights and civil liberties issues,” Shenna Bellows, executive director of the MCLU, said in announcing the award. “She is unafraid to speak difficult truths to those in power. She is tireless in her efforts to make Maine a more welcoming place for all people.”

In her work with the NAACP, Talbot Ross has advocated for fair treatment of those in the state’s prison population, and has organized voter registration drives for inmates.

Most recently, she helped craft the response to the outbreak of hate speech and related incidents that occurred in Maine after the election of Barack Obama as president, Bellows said.

The NAACP, initially called the National Negro Committee, was founded in 1909 in New York. A Portland chapter was founded in 1947 but disbanded in 1959. Gerald Talbot is credited with reinvigorating it. He served as president in 1964-1966, 1970-1971 and 1978-1980.

The MCLU award is named for Roger Baldwin, an ardent activist for social justice who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and served as its director until 1950. During his tenure, the ACLU played a key role in many renowned civil liberties cases, including the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” in which Tennessee school officials challenged the teaching of evolution, as well as the infamous trial of Massachusetts vs. Sacco and Vanzetti.

Baldwin remained active in the cause of civil rights and civil liberties until his death in 1981 at the age of 97. Among his many achievements, Baldwin was tapped by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to travel to Japan to help ensure the protection of civil liberties in that country.

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