1979 murder of UMaine professor to be topic of lecture

ORONO — Two individuals whose lives intersected as a consequence of murder and injustice will be the featured presenters at the inauguration of the Robert Talbot Civil Rights Speaker Series, to be held on Thursday, Oct. 21, in Orono.

Brewer native Amy Banks and Isaac Knapper will share their story of victimization and healing as chronicled in their forthcoming book, Fighting Time.

In 1979, the 16-year-old Knapper was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder in New Orleans of UMaine History Professor Ronald Banks. However, Knapper was freed 13 years later after it was revealed that prosecutors had suppressed evidence that cleared Knapper of the crime.

Professor Banks’ daughter, Amy Banks, was also 16 years old at the time of her father’s murder. Twenty-six years later, she and Knapper met and began working together to process the horrific circumstances of the murder and judicial failures.
Now close friends and advocates for racial justice and reform, the two have collaborated on Fighting Time. As reviewer Jennifer Thompson wrote, “Fighting Time is not just a book about the injustice of a wrongful conviction, but a love story of the capacity of human beings to find power in the pain and healing in the harm.”

Co-hosted by the University of Maine Alumni Association and Greater Bangor Area Branch NAACP, Banks and Knapper’s presentation is being underwritten by a grant from Bangor Savings Bank. The event, to be held at UMaine’s Wells Conference Center, is free and open to the public, though attendees must pre-register at umainealumni.com/talbot/ due to space limitations.

A reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the 5:30 p.m. presentation. Proper face masks and proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative COVID test will be required of all attendees.

Established earlier this year by the University of Maine Alumni Association and the Greater Bangor Area Branch NAACP, the Robert Talbot Civil Rights Speaker Series promotes dialogue and engagement to advance equality and justice. The series is named in honor of Robert “Bob” Talbot, the first executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission. For decades the Bangor native has been one of Maine’s foremost leaders in the pursuit of racial equality, justice, and non-discriminatory policies and practices.