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Listen to These Activists Making LGBT History


GAA and Vito Russo marching in 1st Christopher St Liberation Day Parade
GAA and Vito Russo marching in the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1970

Almost 50 years after Stonewall, New York City's LGBT community is getting ready to march down 5th Avenue for the annual LGBT Pride March. The march commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, which began June 28, 1969. As we look back at that important moment, learning about the activists who shaped the LGBT movement has never been easier.

Eric Marcus created the Making Gay History podcast using his decades-old audio archive of rare interviews—conducted for his award-winning oral history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement—to create intimate, personal portraits of both known and long-forgotten champions, heroes, and witnesses to history. The episodes feature oral histories of Vito Russo, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Barbara Gittings, and many more. Two seasons are already available, and a third is on the way for this fall. Eric Marcus’s archives are preserved in the Library’s Manuscripts & Archives Division.

Eric Marcus will host a trivia contest at the Library After Hours: Celebrating Pride this Friday, June 23, 2017 at NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. The event is first come, first served from 7:30-9 PM. 21+ only. Get more information about the event. 

Randy Wicker & Marsha P. Johnson

Randy Wicker
Randy Wicker (center) with Frank Kameny (left) and Jim Owles (right). Image ID: 1606082

In the early 1960's, Randy Wicker sought to thrust the debate over gay liberation into the national conversation, and in his role as the "public relations director" of the Homosexual League of New York – an organizational title he apparently invented for public relations purposes – he bombarded "straight" media with proposals for news articles, TV and radio segments on gays and lesbians. His biggest success, a radio broadcast of a program featuring gay people discussing their lifestyles, moral codes, and relationships with the "straight" community, was instrumental in breaking the unofficial code of silence around homosexuality in the mainstream media.

Kady Vandeurs and Marsha P. Johnson at gay rights rally at City Hall. Image ID: 1582302.

Marsha P. Johnson was a gay liberation activist, trans activist, and well-known drag queen who fought against police at the famous Stonewall riots of 1969. She went on to help found the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and work for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Listen to Randy and Marsha's episode of Making Gay History, or explore Randy's papers at NYPL.

Barbara Gittings & Kay Tobin Lahusen

Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen, in snowfall
Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen, in snowfall. Image ID: 1606548.

Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen were LGBT civil rights activists and partners who met through their work in the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the oldest lesbian organization in the United States. Gittings, who established the East Coast chapter of DOB, went on to directly influence the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, while Tobin Lahusen documented much of the pre-Stonewall gay rights movement as a prominent lesbian photojournalist.

Listen to Barbara and Kay's first or second episode of Making Gay History, or explore their papers at NYPL.

Vito Russo

Vito Russo
Vito Russo. Image ID: 1606015

Vito Russo, a co-founder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), was a film historian, writer, and gay rights activist in the 1970s and 80s. His essays on the depiction of gay characters in film were widely published in gay and mainstream media, including The Advocate, Rolling Stone, New York, Outweek, The Village Voice, and Esquire. Russo dedicated years of his life for fighting for increased AIDS research, access to new medications, and an end to discrimination against people with AIDS, which took his life in 1990 at the age of forty-four.

Listen to Vito's episode of Making Gay History, or explore Vito's papers at NYPL.

Jeanne & Morty Manford

Morty Manford
Morty Manford entering paddy wagon. Image ID: 1602601

Morty Manford was an activist and key strategist in the early gay rights movement; his mother, Jeanne Manford, co-founded Parents of Gays (POG), the first support group for parents of gay children. After Morty Manford was kicked and beaten at a demonstration for the Gay Activists Alliance – an organization he co-founded and eventually led – Jeanne Manford wrote a highly publicized letter to the editor defending him in the New York Post. Morty Manford went on to found and lead numerous other gay rights organizations in his life, among them the National Coalition of Gay Activists, the Study Group, and the Lambda Club; he was also a Legal Aid lawyer and an Assistant Attorney General of New York State. Jeanne Manford continued to speak out through POG, which eventually became Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in the early 1980s.

Listen to Jeanne and Morty's episode of Making Gay History, or explore Jeanne's papers and Morty's papers at NYPL.


Pride Month Reading Recommendations

June is the American Library Association's GLBT Book Month. The New York Public Library's expert librarians are honoring LGBT literature with three book lists for Pride Month: 30 books for adults30 books for teens, and 30 books for kids.  Each list contains 30 diverse books, one for every day of Pride Month. Find our favorite selections for all age groups, and celebrate this Pride Month with some #RainbowReading.



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