On June 28, 1969, community members fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a bar catering to LGBTQ patrons in Greenwich Village, New York. The Stonewall riots galvanized LGBTQ activists and remain key events in the history of the movement for LGBTQ rights. LGBTQ movements at the time were “growing in the context of, and in many ways directly out of, other 1960s movements for social change, thereby becoming more explicitly political” than most previous efforts at LGBTQ community organizing (Stulberg, 20). Many of the new radical groups that formed after Stonewall remained localized in New York or other areas with large LGBTQ populations. Others began to move toward organizing on a national level. The National Gay Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force), for example, began in New York City in 1973. The first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, on October 14, 1979, further promoted the drive for a national LGBTQ rights movement, and the Human Rights Campaign started in 1980 to support political candidates who backed LGBTQ-friendly legislation.
The resources selected for this exhibit’s “Activism” section show a sample of LGBTQ efforts toward marriage equality, getting out the vote, raising visibility, and other initiatives, as well as information about Birmingham civil rights activist Petric Justice Smith. The section begins with a poster for the second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11, 1987, which expanded the movement’s national reach and brought in hundreds of thousands of participants from around the country. Several cities in Alabama had networks in place to get people to the event. Materials also include correspondence from the organizers of the first National Coming Out Day in 1988, as well as items from the National Gay Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, now known as Lambda Legal. Begun in 1973, this fund has been instrumental in bringing landmark legal cases to the Supreme Court to challenge laws that have discriminated against LGBTQ individuals. Other sections of this exhibit further show how these national campaigns influenced activism in Alabama.