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February - African American History Month

1877 reunion photo of First Maine Cavalry with Frderick Douglass
The 1877 reunion of the First Maine Cavalry at the Ocean House in Old Orchard Beach. In the middle of the first row standing left to right:
Former Governor Sidney Perham, Major Paul Chadbourne, President of the First Maine Cavalry Association, Frederick Douglass.

On August 8, 1877, the First Maine Cavalry Association held its sixth annual meeting at the Ocean House in Old Orchard Beach. The veterans had invited ex-governor Sidney Perham as one of their honored guests, as well as another honored guest: Frederick Douglass, who was in Maine on a speaking tour.

Born into slavery in Maryland, Douglass escaped to freedom and became a notable voice in the struggle for the abolition of slavery before the Civil War. After the war, he became a tireless advocate for equal rights for African Americans. His speaking career took him to Maine many times. Sadly, he would experience discrimination here while riding on the train.

That was not the case with the First Maine Cavalry veterans. From them he received a very warm welcome, which he noted in his speech at the reunion banquet. He closed his speech by saying that he was going to tell the people of Washington that it was on Maine soil, “that a negro was seen seated by the side of an ex-Governor of the State (Perham) by invitation of the First Maine Cavalry, and above all to have a game of croquet with the ladies and gentlemen of a different race right out in front of the hotel. That is the most significant evidence of progress of all.”

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