LGBT Icon Storme DeLarverie’s Personal Collection Comes to the Schomburg

By Candice Frederick
June 23, 2017
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Storme DeLarverie program for

"The Jewel Box Revuew," 1950s;

Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division,

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

In honor of Pride Month, Schomburg Librarians Tiana Taliep and Megan Williams write about the importance of one of our newest acquisitions, icon Storme DeLarverie's personal archive: 

The Schomburg Center for Research of Black Culture recently acquired a collection from performer and gay rights activist, Storme DeLarverie. The collection includes letters, programs, flyers, newspaper clippings, certificates, photographs, videos, and audiotapes. DeLarverie was born December 24, 1920 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to an African American mother and a white father. She was known for being a singer, male impersonator, bouncer, and gay civil rights activist.

Through the 1950s and ‘60s, DeLarverie was the emcee and Master of Ceremonies of the Jewel Box Revue, a traveling variety show. The show was dubbed “25 men and 1 girl,” as DeLarverie was the sole male impersonator among a cast of men performing as women. She was one of the most successful male impersonators of her day. The Jewel Box Revue was the first racially integrated show of its kind and attracted multiracial and mainstream audiences. The Revue was a favorite act on the black theater circuit and regularly played the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.

On the night of June 28th, 1969, patrons of the now iconic Greenwich Village gay bar, Stonewall Inn, fought back against the harassment they faced at the hands of the city police force. At 50 years old, DeLarverie is believed by some to havethrown the first punch, which sparked a three-day protest and ignited the modern gay civil rights movement. DeLarverie’s participation in what has become known as the Stonewall Uprising made her a legendary figure in the LGBT community.

After the Stonewall Riots, DeLarverie continued her role as a self-appointed guardian of the community in the LGBT movement. For years she worked as a bouncer at lesbian bars in the city, including the Cubby Hole and Henrietta Hudson. She was a member of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association, holding the offices of Chief of Security, Ambassador, and Vice President. In 2000, she received the Gay Lifetime Achievement Award from Senior Action in Gay Environment (SAGE). DeLarverie was well known as a regular leading the annual New York City Gay Pride Parade with the Stonewall Veterans and in the historic 1969 Cadillac convertible “Stonewall Car,” which she called “Storme’s baby.”

Located in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, the Storme DeLarverie Papers are comprised of personal items including her passport, correspondence, Jewel Box Revue journals, numerous awards and certificates celebrating her dedication to the LGBT community. This collection also features DeLarverie’s iconic leather jacket and helmet, and is available upon request.

The Storme DeLarverie Photograph collection in the Photographs and Prints Division includes 8 x 10 black and white photographs of DeLarverie in costume performing in the Jewel Box Revue, as well as portraits and headshots of her with other performers and friends. It also contains largely unidentified personal snapshots featuring friends at various events and gatherings during the latter half of DeLarverie’s life. A finding aid will be available on site.