The Story of Talbot Ross and How She Made History

The Story of Talbot Ross and How She Became the First Black Woman to Serve in the Maine Legislature

Rachel Talbot Ross made history in 2016 when she became the first Black woman elected to the Maine Legislature.

Her groundbreaking achievement marked a significant milestone in Maine’s political landscape. Today, Talbot Ross serves as the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, the highest-ranking African-American politician in Maine history.

A Legacy of Public Service and Social Justice

Talbot Ross, a ninth-generation Mainer, has dedicated her career to public service and social justice. Her journey to the Maine Legislature is rooted in a family tradition of civic engagement. Her father, Gerald Talbot, was the first person of color ever elected to the Maine Legislature.

Before entering politics, Talbot Ross served as the Director of Equal Opportunity and Multicultural Affairs for the City of Portland for 21 years. She also led the NAACP in Maine and founded several nonprofit organizations, including Maine Black Community Development and Maine Freedom Trails.

Breaking Barriers in Maine Politics

In 2016, Talbot Ross won the Democratic primary for Maine House District 40. After her Republican opponent dropped out, she secured 100% of the votes in the general election. This victory marked her historic entry into the Maine Legislature.

Talbot Ross has since been re-elected multiple times, facing no opponents in both the 2020 primary and general elections. Her consistent success demonstrates her strong support within her district and her effectiveness as a legislator.

Championing Equity and Justice Reform

Throughout her legislative career, Talbot Ross has been a vocal advocate for justice reform and equity. She sponsored successful legislation to create Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations. Talbot Ross now co-chairs this important commission.

In 2021, Talbot Ross proposed a bill requiring new legislation in Maine to be reviewed for its potential impact on marginalized populations. The bill passed, making Maine the eighth U.S. state with such a requirement. This achievement underscores her commitment to addressing systemic inequalities.

Rising to Leadership

Talbot Ross’s colleagues recognized her leadership abilities early on. In 2020, House Democrats unanimously elected her as the House assistant majority leader. This made her the first Black person in a legislative leadership position in Maine history.

Her ascent continued in December 2022 when she was elected Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. This historic achievement solidified her position as the highest-ranking African-American politician in Maine history.

Recognition Beyond Maine

Talbot Ross’s impact extends beyond Maine’s borders. In February 2023, she was among five Black State House speakers honored by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at a White House Black History Month ceremony. This national recognition highlights the significance of her achievements.

Talbot Ross’s journey from community activist to Speaker of the Maine House exemplifies the power of perseverance and dedication to public service. Her story continues to inspire and pave the way for greater diversity in Maine’s political landscape.