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LGBT and HIV/AIDS Activist Collections

Several thousand items from the 1960s-90s documenting the generations of activists in the United States that fought for civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and struggled against societal stigma to end the AIDS crisis. The collection consists of photographs documenting key activists, organizations, and protests, as well as posters, ephemera, and artwork.

Collection Contents

Gay rights demonstration, Albany, New York, 1971. Gay rights demonstration, Albany, New York, 1971. Digital ID: 1582044

Collection History

Gays and lesbians in the United States began to mobilize politically in the 1950s with the founding of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis in California. This activist impulse spread nationwide, but did not reach critical mass until the late 1960s due to the influence of the African American civil rights, feminist, and anti-war student movements. In the wake of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was formed in New York City by an alliance of both veteran and youth activists. GAA, along with the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Lesbian Feminist activists, made major transformations in the politics of sexuality and gender in the United States.

Among the many activist groups that worked to archive this history was the International Gay Information Center (IGIC), which grew out of the History Committee of GAA. The IGIC archives operated as a community-based repository until 1988, when the organization's directors gave the collection to The New York Public Library. The IGIC archives, along with other archives and collections subsequently donated to the Library, such as the Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen Gay History Papers and Photographs, comprehensively document the gay and lesbian civil rights struggles in New York since the 1950s and have made NYPL one of the most important archives of LGBT history in the United States.

During the 1980s-90s, activists in New York City drew upon the tactics of these earlier LGBT organizations to face the challenge of the AIDS crisis. They renewed these strategies in order to fight social stigma, demand treatment and support for people with HIV/AIDS, and create positive strategies to prevent the spread of the disease. Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP were among the most pivotal of these pioneering organizations. Building upon these growing strengths in LGBT history, the Library expanded its focus to document the history of HIV/AIDS activism in New York City, collecting the archives of major organizations, activists, and artists connected with this social movement.

Related Resources

1969: The Year of Gay Liberation <http://legacy.www.nypl.org/research/chss/1969/>

Carter, David. Stonewall: the Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004.

Clendinen, Dudley. Out for Good: the Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Crimp, Douglas. AIDS Demo Graphics. Seattle: Bay Press, 1990.

Duberman, Martin B. Stonewall. New York: Dutton, 1993.

Eisenbach, David. Gay Power: An American Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006.

Gould, Deborah. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight against AIDS. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2009.

Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS epidemic. New York: St Martin's Griffin, 2007.

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.