cloudyn.png
Friday August 14th, 2020 3:53AM

Project documents hidden history of LGBTQ life in the South

By The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A new project is documenting a once-hidden history of LGBTQ people in the Deep South, with donors providing troves of information and items on gay life, systemic oppression and activism.

Historian and archivist Joshua Burford said the goal of the Invisible Histories Project is to create a uniquely Southern collection that will "give Southern history back to queer Southerners."

While the stereotypical LGBTQ person might live openly in an urban center and have plenty of money, he said, plenty of Southern gays live both in cities and in rural areas where they hold working-class jobs.

"If the model is always the West Village or Boy's Town or Fire Island, then the South can never be the same as that. So we have to stop pretending like we want to be," said Burford, engagement director of the group. "What we are is very queer and very Southern, and those two things are always overlapping."

Established in late 2016, the Birmingham-based nonprofit organization already has gathered boxes full of information about gay life in Alabama, including decades-old directories of gay-friendly businesses dating to the late 1960s, activist T-shirts, records from gay-rights groups, and rainbow-themed material.

Bob Burns, who is gay, both lived through some of the toughest times for LGBTQ Southerners and documented them through years of activism. Now 66, he compiled a trove of information from years that included the AIDS epidemic and the oppression of gay people in the Deep South. Burns heard about the project through a friend, and he's donated items including the results of lengthy surveys he helped compile in 1989 and again in 1999 documenting what he called almost continual discrimination and rights violations directed at LGBTQ people in Alabama.

"That all had been sitting in a trunk here because there was no one to give it to," said Burns, who has lived in Birmingham nearly 40 years.

He also donated a report compiled following a daylong event held years ago at a gay-friendly church to assess the needs and desire of the gay community around Birmingham.

"There was no place for that information to go so it was basically wasted," he said. "But at least now it's part of history. We know what people in whatever year it was, 15 or 20 years ago, thought was important."

The Invisible Histories project will expand its work to Mississippi and Georgia later this year, and organizers hope to cover the entire Southeast within a few years.

The Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has thousands of books and artifacts documenting LGBT cultural and social history across the nation, and the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco tells the story of the Bay Area community. The History Project does the same in Boston for New England gays.

Items in the collection include documents about a conflict over plans to hold the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference at the University of Alabama in 1996. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Alabama's attorney general at the time, unsuccessfully argued that holding the event at a public university conflicted with a state law then in effect, prohibiting homosexual acts.

The meeting went ahead as planned without incident, and Alabama voters elected Sessions to the U.S. Senate later that year.

The archive also includes documents related to the arrest of about 20 men accused of cruising for gay sex in a weeklong police sting conducted in a park in Tuscaloosa in 2002, said Burford, who originally researched the cases for school and is giving personal materials to the project.

Rather than developing a mammoth, gay version of the Smithsonian Institution that could be difficult for people to visit, the Invisible Histories Project plans to store items in smaller, local repositories. Much of the Alabama archive is housed at Birmingham's main public library.

"We want to make sure that people who really care and are most affected by the materials can access it easily," said development director Maigen Sullivan. "So we're working with a number of smaller institutions that are closer to the community so that we can store their things there."

Burford said it's important to document the past accurately because LGBTQ people have been lied about and disregarded for generations.

"Queer people are orphaned from American history," he said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Giuliani clarifies his 'truth isn't truth' puzzler
Trump's personal attorney says he wasn't trying to make an existential point about the meaning of veracity when he declared 'truth isn't truth'
12:14PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Trump dares Brennan to sue because his clearance was revoked
President Donald Trump is daring former CIA Director John Brennan to take legal action to try to prevent him from stripping security clearances from other current and former officials
12:00PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Pressure builds on Schumer before Kavanaugh meeting
Left-wing groups criticizing Sen. Schumer for not forcing wavering Democrats into line against Kavanaugh
11:45AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
AP Online - Georgia News
AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
Giuliani clarifies his 'truth isn't truth' puzzler
Trump's personal attorney says he wasn't trying to make an existential point about the meaning of veracity when he declared 'truth isn't truth'
12:14PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Trump dares Brennan to sue because his clearance was revoked
President Donald Trump is daring former CIA Director John Brennan to take legal action to try to prevent him from stripping security clearances from other current and former officials
12:00PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Pressure builds on Schumer before Kavanaugh meeting
Left-wing groups criticizing Sen. Schumer for not forcing wavering Democrats into line against Kavanaugh
11:45AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Venezuelans nervously await dramatic economic reforms
Venezuelans are bracing for dramatic economic measures the government has announced, including a more-than 3,000 percent hike in the minimum wage
11:38AM ( 51 minutes ago )
Wisconsin WR Cephus takes leave from team, expects charges
Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus taking leave of absence from the team, believes prosecutors intend to file criminal charges against him for April incident
11:19AM ( 1 hour ago )