Browse the African American Collection

This collection, part of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, 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.

Advisory Committee Directory

Susie R. Bock: Director, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine

Zack Newell: Dean of Libraries and Learning, University of Southern Maine

Jill Piekut Roy: Special Collections Librarian, University of Southern Maine

African American Collection History

The African American Archives of Maine (as it was originally named) was inspired by Gerald E. Talbot. Mr. Talbot was the first African American elected to the Maine State legislature and his family has been in Maine since the eighteenth century. As Mr. Talbot explained in April 1994:

“It is because of my long involvement in civil rights in Maine and New England and my deep interest and involvement in my Black culture and history, that I have collected and preserved pieces of that black history, nationally and locally, for others to see and learn from.”

Another inspiration came from the documentary Anchor of the Soul that focused attention on the struggle to maintain a black community in New England. Shoshana Hoose, who was largely responsible for researching and making the documentary, and Gerald Talbot began meeting with officials for the University of Southern Maine in 1994. They wanted to build a collection that would document and preserve African American culture and history. In 1995 Mr. Talbot donated his collection to the University and it became the basis of the African American Archives of Maine. Not surprisingly, Talbot’s gift was followed by material donated by Anchor of the Soul filmmakers Ms. Hoose and Karin Odlin.

In 1997 the University hired a faculty scholar to interpret the collection and to encourage research based on the Archives. Also in that year, the University, as part of its commitment to diversity, established the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine. One of its goals is to collect and preserve primary and secondary research materials on the experience of diverse groups in Maine. It was only natural that the African American Archives of Maine become one of the four major collections of the new Center. In 2002, the African American Archives of Maine became the African American Collection.