Special Collections

African American Collection

The African American Collection is part of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine. It consists of collections of personal papers and archives of organizations active in the African American community of Maine. The bulk of the manuscript collection dates from the 20th century to the present, but a few collections contain items from the 19th century. There are also rare or unique print materials about the community (all 20th century or later) and the book collection of Gerald E. Talbot. The collection focuses on historical sources, excluding creative works of fiction or art, unless such works document the community.

To get started searching our collections, see this Guide to Finding Materials in Special Collections.

For information on collection administration click here.

African American Maine Photograph Album    AA MS 7    View Finding Aid
This collection consists of a wooden photograph album and three packets of loose photographs of African American women on vacation in Maine – about 15 women, and a total of 112 photos. They might have been traveling to Maine for a church group gathering [suggested by multiple photos of the All Saints by the Sea church] or as a woman’s group vacationing in Maine. Many locations are identifiable as being along the Mid-coast. Many of the photos are of Pemaquid Point, Boothbay, the shoreline, and boats. The date range is 1940s and 50s. The album was purchased from a dealer in Virginia in 2009.    1940s-1950s    0.25 ft.

View album in Digital Commons

Page from African American Maine Photograph Album.

African American Oral History Collection   AA MS 29
The Center for the Study of Lives at USM celebrates individual lives and strengthens community bonds by bringing people of all generations and cultures together to share life stories. While serving as a meeting ground for all people interested in learning from each other's stories, the Center records, preserves, and disseminates the life stories of people of all ages and backgrounds. Through its work, the Center provides a rich repository for those interested in understanding communities through autobiography, oral history, and personal reflection. The Collection consists of 3 audiotapes holding oral history interviews conducted by the Center with Leola Marshall and Gerald E. Talbot, plus release forms and indexes for each interview    1996 (recorded)    0.1 ft.

African American Stereotype Postcard  AA MS 30
Painting of 4 little black boys, nude, on a shore beside a body of water with cattails.  Outside the image, in the bottom left corner of the card, "69. Alligator Bait."  Mailed from Spartanburg, SC to Westbrook, ME, postmarked 1918 Apr 5.    1918    0.1 ft.

Anchor of the Soul Collection   AA MS 12
Shoshana Hoose and Karine Odlin created Anchor of the Soul, a video documenting the history of Maine's African American community which was produced by the Abyssinian Church in Portland. The creators donated the materials to the African American Collection in 1996 and 2001.  The Collection contains materials used in the production of the video and accompanying exhibition.    ca. 1991-1992    7 ft.

Robert Bailey Poster   AA MS 28
Robert Bailey, born in England and now living in Canada, is an Artist Fellow with the American Society of Aviation Artists and a member of the Canadian Aviation Artists Association.  Framed print, signed by 13 of the Tuskegee Airmen, of Robert Bailey's painting "Red Tail Pass." One of the signatures is the donor's, James A. Sheppard, a Maine resident, and Tuskegee Airman.    2003    3 ft.

Joseph Bernard Collection   AA MS 27
Joe Bernard worked for the Social Security Administration and other government organizations. He received an Outstanding Performance award while working as Human Rights Investigator for Prince William County, Virginia. He was active in his community and enjoyed traveling. This collection, donated by Janice Doctor, consists of two black-and-white photographs, likely from Fifth Street Middle School in Bangor, Maine, one each of the basketball and football teams respectively which included Gerald Talbot.    ca. 1965    .25 ft.

William D. Burney Sr. Papers   AA MS 14
This collection contains newspaper clippings from the Lewiston Journal and the Kennebec Journal from the 1960s and 1970s on civil rights issues and Mainers' contributions to the cause nationally as well as at home.    ca. 1960s-1970s    .25 ft.

Cummings Guest House Register   AA MS 5     View Finding Aid
The Cummings family of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, ran a guest house from 1923 until 1993. Register in which guests signed themselves in or were signed in by staff at the Cummings Guest House, 110 Portland Ave., Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  Includes signatures of family members who attended reunions after the Guest House ceased operation.    1923-1998    1 ft.

Eastern Real Estate Company Archives    AA MS 4    View Finding Aid
The Eastern Real Estate Company was an association of African-Americans who bought and sold real estate in the Portland area from 1912-2001.  The records in the Archives include articles of association, minutes, financial records, stock records, listings of stockholders, tax records, bank books, and legal documents.    1912-2001    1 ft.

Flynn Seal Presses   AA MS 9   View Finding Aid
Stephen Flynn discovered these two seal presses on Higgins Beach in Scarborough, Maine, in 1978. They were found in the remains of the Silver Sands Hotel, which had to be destroyed after damage caused by a storm. Two seal presses were from the Women's Ku Klux Klan organizations of Augusta and Bath, Maine. The one from the WKKK chapter of Augusta, Maine reads: “Women of the Ku Klux Klan; Capital City Klan; Klan No 11 Augusta, Maine.” In the center, there is a shield with a cross and the letters W, K, K, K, at the top, bottom, and sides of the cross.  The seal from the WKKK chapter of Bath, Maine reads: “Women of the Ku Klux Klan; Bath Klan; Klan No 15 Bath, Maine.” There is also an image of a shield in its center (but no cross) with the letters W, K, K, and K.    Undated    1 ft.

Lee Forest Figurines  AA MS 11   View Finding Aid
Lee Forest, Director of Environmental Services at the University of Southern Maine, donated the figurines in 2002.  In the early years of the twentieth century, the commoditization of Aunt Jemima expanded beyond commercial flour mix to include a diverse array of products such as rag dolls, dish towels, cookie jars, and salt-and-pepper shakers. Eventually, a husband was added, Uncle Mose, and two children, Diana and Wade. Household notions depicting the family continued to be produced into the 1960s when the civil rights and black consciousness movements encouraged an examination of the symbolism behind representations of African Americans. The collection consists of 11 glazed ceramic figurines depicting Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose. Objects include kitchen jars, a toothbrush holder, and several salt and pepper shakers.    ca. 1930s-1950s    3 ft.

Bob Greene Papers  AA MS 21  
Bob Greene’s career as a journalist included covering tennis for the Associated Press. He is also a Maine Historian interested in African American history and can trace his Maine roots eight generations. The Papers include vital records, documents and printouts from his genealogical research, high school football letter sweater and certificate and press badges and tickets for sporting and other events, 1969 to 2002.    1952-2003    5 ft.

Bishop James Augustine Healy Portrait   AA MS 13
This is a hand-colored silver gelatin photograph of James Healy, 1830-1900, the first African-American Bishop in Maine.  It was bought by the donor at auction from St. Joseph's Convent, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy.  Accompanying materials in the collection include 2 color printouts of Healy's memorial cross; documents related to the portrait's auction and restoration; a CD with a digital reproduction of the image; and a book, The Catholic Church in the land of the Holy Cross: a history of the Diocese of Portland, Maine.  The Sampson Center has printed the retouched reproduction and installed it in the original frame.    undated    3.25 ft.

Home Is Where I Make It - Oral History Collection    AA MS 6    View Finding Aid
This oral history project was directed by Dr. Maureen Elgersman Lee, of USM, and Rachel Talbot Ross.  The interviews were conducted by local high school students.  The Collection includes transcripts, photographs, and audiotapes from the two phases of the project, which documented African American life in the Greater Portland and Lewiston-Auburn areas.    2001-2003    1 ft.

Eugene Jackson Papers  AA MS 19   View Photos from this collection
Eugene B. Jackson, born in Portland, Maine, was a Tuskegee Airman.  The Papers include Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, devotional books, family photographs, family papers, periodical articles, and Ruby Family notes.    1880-2006, Undated    2 ft.

Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Medallion   AA MS 23
This medallion, "Knights of Ku Klux Klan Realm of Michigan", was donated to the collection by Howard Solomon.    1919    .25 ft.

Ku Klux Klan Photograph  AA MS 10     View Finding Aid
The Ku Klux Klan Photograph is a black-and-white image of a KKK march that took place in Lincoln, Maine in 1927. The print measures 8 inches by 9.5 inches.    1927    0.10 ft.

Malaga Island Collection  AA MS 22
This collection contains a small selection of artifacts from the Maine State Museum collections


Maxfield Photograph   AA MS 24
16x12 framed the daguerreotype of the Maxfields, an African American family. The donor purchased at a flea market.    1 ft.


NAACP Maine Archives   AA MS 18
A diverse collection of records of the Greater Bangor Area, Central Maine, and Portland Branches of the NAACP.    38 ft.

George Neavoll Collection   AA MS 20
George Neavoll was a long-time Portland resident and friend of Gerald E. Talbot. The Collection contains items representing “three important periods in the liberation struggle” (his words) for African Americans and Africans, consisting of souvenir cup from W.E.B. Dubois's home in Accra, Ghana; photocopies of newspaper articles from the Topeka Capital Journal (KS) series on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (April 18-25, 1993) and subsequent court action (June 22, 1993); Nelson Mandela poster; 2003 Ebony calendar - Great Black Americans.    2 ft.


No Matter How Great the Population    AA MS 
This collection consists of a copy of a research paper by Justus Hillebrand, “No Matter How Great the Population: African American Resistance and Community in 1940s and 1950s Portland, Maine.” Hillebrand submitted the paper, which draws on research using the African American Collection, to the University of Cologne, Germany in support of his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History.    2012    .25 ft.

Photograph from a Wedding in Bangor Maine   AA MS 25
Photograph of an African-American woman sitting in a pew in St. John's Episcopal Church in Bangor, Maine.  Taken on their wedding day, June 19, 1943, the photograph was originally the property of Juliet and Robert Kellogg of Bangor, Maine and later donated to the USM Library by their son, Zip Kellogg.    1943    .25 ft.

Photographic Portrait of African American Male   AA MS 26
Studio portrait of an African American male, mounted on an embossed card, the photographer is not identified.The print is 4" x 5.5", the card is 5.5" x 6.25".     ca. late nineteenth century    0.1 ft.


Photographic Portrait of Pedro Tovookan Parris AA MS 17
Given to the collection by Frances E. Godfrey, wife of Prentiss, whose ancestor, Virgil D. Parris, “rescued” Pedro [T]ovorkan from slavery. She found the photograph among her husband's family’s papers.

Harold E. Richardson Papers    AA MS 3     View Finding Aid
Harold E. Richardson (1922-1993) was born in Portland and attended West School and Portland High School. Richardson was elected to the Portland Water District Board in 1963.  He served on the Board until at least 1987, including a stint as president in the late 60s. He was very active in the Portland community: his contributions include service on the Maine State Law Enforcement Planning and Assistance Agency and membership in the Mt. Lebanon Masonic Lodge and Deering Lions Club, among many others.  The Papers contain his scrapbook, documenting his many contributions to the Portland community, including serving on the Portland Water District Board, photographs, and a 1949 certificate of membership in the Mt. Lebanon Masonic Lodge.    ca. 1931-1991    2.25 ft.

N. T. Swezey's Son & Co. Tin Sign    AA MS 8    View Finding Aid
N. T. Swezey (Noah Terry) (1814-1888) was a flour merchant in New York City. He ran a successful business for over forty years at 176 South St. and was one of the founders of the New York Produce Exchange. This collection contains a reproduction of a sign advertising Northwest Consolidated Milling Company flour. The sign depicts the figure of a black child standing behind and slightly below the figure of a white child. The white figure is sitting on a container of the Northwestern Consolidated Milling Company’s flour and is holding a slice of white bread. Both children have flour stains on their hands; the black child also has a white handprint on his cheek. Next to the children is an open flour sack. The text in the upper left-hand corner reads: “Only Perfect Flour Makes Perfect Bread.” The text on the right reads: “N.T. Swezey’s Son & Co. Flour; 224 Produce Exchange, New York; Telephones, 63 Broad/971 ". The sign measures 12.5 inches by 17 inches. Historically, the image of an African American child relies on racist stereotypes that were frequently depicted on advertisements, postcards, and other ephemera from about the mid-nineteenth century into the early decades of the twentieth century.    ca. 1980s    2.5 ft.

Gerald E. Talbot Collection    AA MS 1   View Finding Aid
Gerald E. Talbot was the first African American to be elected to the Maine State Legislature. He served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978 and worked with the Maine chapter of the NAACP and the State Board of Education. He also took part in the struggle for civil rights in other parts of the country, as well as in Maine.  The Collection includes Talbot’s personal papers, records of his term in the Maine House of Representatives, of his work with the NAACP in Maine and with the State Board of Education. The Collection contains books, serials, posters, artifacts, and photographs documenting African Americans in the United States, with an emphasis on Maine.    ca. 1800s-1990s    170 ft.  For related material or information on Mr. Talbot, please visit the following links: Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity In Maine Lifetime Achievement Award and photos from the ceremony; Items from the Gerald E. Talbot Collection


Today’s Black Athlete Collection  AA MS 
Unpublished paper, entitled "Today’s Black Athlete" based on an interview with former professional athletes: Julius Erving, Craig Lovell, Pierre Marchando, Tony Penleton, Al Skinner and Ray Wilson. Also related materials.

Visible Black History Archives   AA MS 16
Visible Black History is a partnership of H. H. Price and Gerald E. Talbot to make accessible the history of African Americans in Maine through publications and presentations.  The Archives contains research materials and published writings on African Americans in Maine and New England.    1996-2006    4 ft.

Frederick D. Williams Papers   AA MS 15
Frederick D. Williams, an attorney, and long-time Maine resident was a Tuskegee Airman during WW II, recalled to serve during the Korean War.  He was the first African American to join the Maine Bar, in 1969.  He served as President of the Cumberland County Bar Association in 1988-89, along with extensive involvement in local and state civic affairs.  The Papers contain books, undated clippings and a photograph dealing with Williams’s legal career; 3 vinyl records produced by the U.S. Dept. of Education on the Negro in the U.S.; and a 1971 letter from Maine Governor Kenneth M. Curtis congratulating him on his election to Selectman of Windham.    1 ft.

Gary Woolson Collection   AA MS 2
Gary Woolson is a bookseller in Newburgh, Maine, near Bangor. The Collection consists of two issues of The Oracle (1903, 1939), a monthly student publication of Bangor (Maine) High School.    1903, 1939   0.25 ft.