Bangor, Maine is set to rename its Second Street Park after Gerald E Talbot the state’s first Black legislator. The city’s government operations committee unanimously voted on Oct. 4, 2021, to rename the park after the longtime civil rights leader.
The city wanted to honor Talbot’s 90th birthday. He was born on Oct. 28, 1931, and grew up down the road from Second Street Park.
He was the eldest of five children born to Arvella and W. Edgerton Talbot. His parents instilled a commitment to education and life-long love for learning. They taught them a strong work ethic with an appreciation for the inherent dignity and value of all human beings.
After Talbot served for the United States Army — and married Anita Cummings —they moved to Portland, Maine to begin their lives. Finding housing or a job proved to be difficult for a Black family. However, he eventually began a career as a printer for the state’s largest newspaper. Soon he and his wife started a family and raised their four daughters.
Life’s challenges provided the Talbot family with a determination to stand and fight against oppression and prejudice in all its forms. The civil and human rights activist participated in rallies, marches, and voter registration drives throughout Maine, Mississippi, Washington, D.C., and several southern states.
In 1963, he was one of a handful of Mainers who participated in the March on Washington. Talbot revived the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in portland after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. He was elected the organization’s first president in May of that same year. Talbot went on to serve two more terms as the Portland chapter’s NAACP president.
Talbot played a significant part in passing legislation to create equality in Maine. For example, the Maine Fair Housing Bill and Maine Huma Rights Act. In the 1970s, he sponsored the first gay rights legislation in Maine history.
Talbot was honored in 2020 when a Portland school was named after him.
Bangor’s park and recreation director, Tracy Willette’s memo, states that there are several reasons behind wanting to rename the city park. These reasons stipulate that the Second Street park’s name “reflects negatively” on the property. This could be due to the “negative activity” associated with the park. Including a 2019 video of two homeless men being assaulted in the park.
Normally a person is dead at least five years before the city will allow a park to be named after them. However, naming the park as a tribute to Talbot while he is still alive would not defy the intention of that policy. Especially since his career is worthy of lasting recognition. The final decision for the name change rests in the hands of the full council.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Bangor Daily News: Bangor to rename park after Maine’s 1st Black legislator; by David Marino Jr
Americans Who Tell the Truth: Gerald E. Talbot
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