Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Collection in Glickman aims to educate students on African American history in Maine

Bradford Spurr

Posted on January 22, 2017 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Bradford Spurr

By Dionne Smith, Free Press Staff

The Glickman Library is home to the USM Special Collections, which holds a large African American Collection that is open to the public. The collection contains a vast amount of information regarding African Americans in Maine. While most Maine are white, there is a large amount of history that involves African Americans in Maine and famous African Americans traveling to Maine.

The collection is made up of primary materials ranging from manuscripts and documents to objects such as buttons. All the material collected creates a story which  is linked to the history of African Americans in Maine. The large and constantly expanding collection has no exact count of material; it goes on for several hundred feet and seems endless.

“Material culture is important because people create things for a purpose,” Susie R. Bock, the Coordinator of Special Collections and Director of Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine,  stated.

The African American Collection was inspired by Gerald E. Talbot, who was the first African American legislator in the state of Maine, serving in the Maine House of Representatives from 1974 to 1978. Talbot believed that there should be a collection to store any documentation or significant objects of African American history in the state. In 1995, Talbot donated his collection of personal papers, and his collection of materials regarding African Americans in Maine from around the country, that he collected throughout his life. This became the basis for the collection, which would expand over the years.

The collection is popular and utilized by classes. Roughly 40 classes a semester make use of the collection. Students get the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with different materials, and they can read through a vast majority of the documents about African Americans in Maine. The collection can also aid in the research for African American history in Maine.

Bock strongly believes that all USM students should visit the collection at least once while they are enrolled. The objects and documents in the collection can offer insight into the racism that pervaded, and still pervades, Maine, which in 1820 was admitted into the Union as a free state. For example, the collection includes the charter that established the Ku Klux Klan as a official group in Maine. Bock said, however, that the collection is also about communities in Maine, and that the collection empowers the African American community and celebrates it.

Sacha Kiesman, a 19-year-old freshman with a major in political science and minor in art history, has visited the African American Collection before for her EYE class. She was able to view artifacts that showed evidence of the dehumanization of African Americans and the effects of the Jim Crow era in the state.

“I think being able to see tangible artifacts and photos can make for a great jumping off point for research into African American history and the era of slavery and Jim Crow Laws,” Kiesman said.

Similarly, Anora Morton, a 21-year-old junior psychology major, believes that she will visit the collection. As a community mentor, she is always looking for things to do with her mentees and said the African American Collection will be a good resource for her to take advantage of.

“One of the reasons that Mr. Talbot is so beloved and so honored is because not only did he fight for the civil rights of African Americans, he extended that for all people,” Bock said regarding Gerald. E Talbot.

Thanks to Talbot, the African American Collection is able to offer new knowledge to anyone that is interested. Any and all students, Maine residents and even tourist are encouraged to stop by and learn more about the history of African Americans in Maine.