MCLU Honors Rachel Talbot Ross

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
January 20, 2009 12:00 am

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One of Maine’s most prominent civil rights leaders has been chosen to receive the Roger Baldwin award from the Maine Civil Liberties Union at the organization’s annual meetings scheduled for late January.

Rachel Talbot Ross, President of the Portland Chapter of the NAACP, was selected for the award because of her longstanding work on civil rights and civil liberties. Talbot Ross also serves as Director of Equal Opportunity and Multicultural Affairs for the city of Portland. For many years, she has been an outspoken advocate on civil rights issues.

“Rachel is an extraordinary and gifted leader, working on so many important civil rights and civil liberties issues,” said Shenna Bellows, MCLU Executive Director. “She is unafraid to speak difficult truths to those in power. She is tireless in her efforts to make Maine a more welcoming place for all people.”

In her work with the NAACP, Talbot Ross has also advocated for fair treatment of those in the state’s prison population, and has organized voter registration drives for inmates.

Most recently, she helped craft the response to the outbreak of hate speech and related incidents that occurred here after the election of Barack Obama. The tradition of civil rights activism is a proud one in Rachel’s family; her father, Gerald Talbot, was the first African-American legislator in Maine history.

The MCLU award is named for Roger Baldwin, an ardent activist for social justice who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as its Director until 1950. During his tenure, the ACLU played a key role in many renowned civil liberties cases, including the Scopes “Monkey trial” where Tennessee school officials had challenged the teaching of evolution, as well as the infamous trial of Massachusettes vs. Sacco and Vanzetti. Baldwin remained active in the cause of civil rights and civil liberties until his death in 1981 at the age of 97. Among his many achievements, Baldwin was tapped by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to travel to Japan to help ensure the protection of civil liberties in that country.

The Roger Baldwin award will be presented to Rachel Talbot Ross at the MCLU Annual Meetings, which will be held in Portland on Jan. 22 at the USM Glickman Library, and at the Bangor Public Library on Jan. 29. These events, both scheduled for 6 PM, are free and open to the public, but an RSVP is encouraged.

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