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LGBTQ Community Archives in Small Urban Centers: Reflections on Community and University Partnerships to Build Awareness of the Lehigh Valley’s Rich LGBTQ History from AIDS Activism to Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Mary Foltz, Susan Falciani Maldonado, Kristen Leipert, Rachel Hamelers and Adrian Shanker

Abstract

Too frequently regional LGBTQ history outside of major metropolises is not a major focus either in university curriculum or for financially strapped local non-profit organizations as they provide essential direct services to our communities. Even as the late twentieth and early twenty-first century have ushered in a new focus on local archival projects, regional organizations often struggle to find funding for local historical projects while universities provide LGBTQ studies courses that center activism in NYC, Los Angeles, or San Francsico, marches in Washington, D.C., and the value of subcultural spaces on the coasts. As scholars have argued in the past decade, literary critics and historians need to focus more attention on LGBTQ activism, cultural production, and community formations outside of major urban centers. For university faculty, staff, and archivists, we have the opportunity to address this need by partnering with regional LGBTQ organizations, using our resources to help build strong local archives, and working with community members to shape narratives about LGBTQ history that engage with national movements while also addressing the nuances of activist work in various cultural contexts. This article addresses how community center leaders, archivists, faculty, and students in Allentown, PA have collaborated to meet these challenges by discussing three impactful archival projects: F.A.C.T. (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together) public history courses, an exhibit titled “Pride Guides and the Early Years of Lehigh Valley Pride Festivals,” and the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Oral History Project. As we provide details about these projects, we trace the value of centering regional AIDS activism, pride celebrations, and struggles for anti-discrimination legislation for our regional LGBTQ community and our students. We argue that courses, exhibits, and oral history collection not only produce regional connectivity to national political projects and strategies, but also build stronger understanding of the import of local activism for promoting equity at the civic and state level. Beyond understanding the historical trajectory of regional activism, archival work and exhibitions bring diverse young people, elders, and those in the middle of life together who may not have met otherwise to reflect on our history and to imagine our future. The process of incorporating students, organizational leaders, and archivists in shared historical projects and narratives formation builds new networks for meeting urgent present-day needs.

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1. Introduction: The Import of Regional LGBTQ Archives

  • 1 As Daniel Marshall, Kevin P. Murphy, and Zeb Tortorici argue, “The gay and lesbian archival project (...)
  • 2 For a discussion of the challenges of funding for LGBTQ community archives, see Diana K. Wakimoto, (...)
  • 3 In Pennsylvania, our archival team has benefitted from the work of the LGBT Center of Central PA Hi (...)
  • 4 Diana K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce, “The Case of LLACE,” 439. For critique of (...)

1Major urban centers like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are established and rich sites for archival collection that centers on LGBTQ communities. With The Lesbian Herstory Archives, ONE Archives, and GLBT Historical Society, to name just three major organizations, these cities offer vibrant exhibitions built from priceless archival materials that both draw upon unique civic histories and contribute to broad historical understanding of national liberation movements and activism.1 For communities outside urban centers like Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, archives and exhibits in major cities can be important destinations even as they seemingly confirm that LGBTQ history happens elsewhere, in coastal metropolises far from us. Of course, national movements depend upon regional activists to engage with the political platforms of leading organizations, to fight for LGBTQ causes at local levels, and to struggle for social change within their specific cultural milieus. In short, there is no national movement without regional activists who have unique stories to tell about LGBTQ history. Yet, too frequently, regional LGBTQ history is not a major focus either in university curricula or for local non-profit organizations as they provide essential direct services to our communities.2 Even as the late twentieth and early twenty-first century have ushered in a new focus on local archival projects,3 regional organizations often struggle to access funding for local historical projects, while universities provide LGBTQ studies courses that center Stonewall, marches in Washington, D.C., and the value of subcultural spaces on the coasts. As Diane K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce argue, historians need to focus more attention on LGBTQ activism, cultural production, and community formations outside of New York City and San Francisco. In their work with the Lavender Library, Archives, and Cultural Exchange, they argue that archives in smaller urban centers like Sacramento “provide new geographic focus for community archives research,” thereby expanding our understanding of LGBTQ activism, history, and community formations.4 As university faculty, staff, and archivists, we have the opportunity to address the need for stronger understanding of activism outside of major urban spaces by partnering with regional LGBTQ organizations and using our resources to help build strong local archives.

  • 5 For information about the Central PA LGBT Center History Project, see https://centralpalgbtcenter.o (...)
  • 6 Diana K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce, “The Case of LLACE,” 440-441. Also, see El (...)

2Our article focuses on the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive in order to explore the value of regional projects that address local history. Throughout the past three years, archivists, community leaders, and faculty have used material from this regional archive to develop courses, exhibitions, and oral history projects that showcase urgent AIDS activism in the 1980s and 90s, the development of a local Pride Festival in the 1990s, and activists’ reflections of fights for liberation from 1969 to the present. Our archival projects are made possible by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center (BSC). From the early days of imagining BSC, leaders placed archival collection at the center of their vision. Inspired by the powerful collection practices of Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center and the LGBT Center of Central PA,5 BSC began collecting material from local activists and partnered with Muhlenberg College’s library to preserve materials. While BSC maintains ownership of the collection, Muhlenberg College provides archival space and professional support for processing collections, creating finding aids, and digitizing materials. In this way, BSC “maintain[s] control over the communities’ records,” an important issue as historically “mainstream archival institutions marginalize” LGBTQ communities and institutional archivists “had little knowledge of gay archives or gay rights movements generally.”6 While collection, organization, and preservation has been the emphasis for the first three years, BSC and Muhlenberg College recognize the need to increase accessibility to community members; partnering with university faculty gives BSC the opportunity to activate the archives for multiple constituencies. As faculty and archivists can access institutional funding and provide staffing, they can support access to the archives without claiming ownership of it. Since 2018, collaborative courses and public-facing archival projects have enriched the value of the archives by giving students and community members pathways for engaging with regional contributions to national movements.

3We discuss three separate projects: a public history/public health course centered around HIV/AIDS, which utilizes the archives of F.A.C.T. (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together), a local organization; an exhibit titled “Pride Guides and the Early Years of Lehigh Valley Pride Festivals”; and the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Oral History Project. These projects trace the value of centering regional AIDS activism, pride celebrations, and struggles for equity for our regional LGBTQ community and our students. First, we argue that courses, exhibits, and oral history collection not only produce regional connectivity to national struggles, but also show how our regional leaders were a part of making national history as they developed responses to AIDS, founded pride celebrations, and led the fight for local non-discrimination protections. In sum, regional archival projects remind community members that we are integral parts of larger national movements, which will not succeed without the contributions of smaller communities. Second, by honoring local leaders, numerous volunteers, and key non-profit organizations, regional archival projects build stronger understanding of local history, informing our community of the foundation upon which recent local struggles for equity rely. Because activist movements frequently depend upon volunteer labor, communication between organizers of different generations can falter and precious information about political strategies, organizational structure, or even successful city council battles is lost. Archival work about the founding of our regional pride festival or the intense fight for an anti-discrimination ordinance in Allentown, PA ensures that future generations know the shoulders upon which they stand and have opportunities to learn from organizational triumphs and strategies of earlier generations. Third, regional archival work builds stronger intergenerational community formations that inform present-day efforts. The process of incorporating students, organizational leaders, and archivists in shared historical projects and narrative formation builds new networks for meeting urgent present-day needs. 

2. Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archives: An Overview of the Collections

  • 7 An oral history with Frank Whelan, a Le-Hi-Ho member and active supporter of the Lambda Center, dis (...)

4The Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive is housed within Muhlenberg College’s Trexler Library. The archives currently consist of twenty-two distinct collections from organizations, individuals, publications, oral histories, and bars. The archives showcase regional activists’ connection to larger national movements as they include materials from a local homophile organization, the region’s first LGBT community center, lesbian leaders in the regional chapter of N.O.W., AIDS organizations, and a variety of political groups that worked on anti-discrimination legislation, voters’ guides, and marriage equality. Our earliest materials are from Le-Hi-Ho, a homophile organization that formed three months before the Stonewall riots in 1969 by members who wanted to provide social opportunities beyond bars. Le-Hi-Ho members became political leaders in our region as they went on to create the Lambda Center, a short-lived community center and library. As political and social services organizations turned to focus on AIDS, the Lambda Center closed its doors.7 The archives contain materials from each of these organizations, thereby offering a strong account of how regional activists learned from LGBT publications and organizations in major urban centers like NYC and Philadelphia as they started homophile organizations, community centers, and political groups from 1969 through 1989s. In the 1990s, local activism increased a focus on legislation; organizations like the Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Political Action (PA-GALA) and the Lehigh Valley Gay and Lesbian Task Force were particularly active as they lobbied for protections for LGBT people in employment and housing. PA-GALA focused on developing voting guides to support anti-discrimination ordinances and hate crimes legislation. Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley also began in the 1990s. Educational organizations like Pennsylvania Diversity Network (PDN) launched in 2004 to offer training, information, and advocacy. The archival materials from these organizations show regional contributions to statewide battles for non-discrimination, hate crimes protections, and marriage equality. Today, BSC is actively engaged in collecting and celebrating the legacy of LGBT organizations in our region that laid the foundation for today’s cultural and political organizations.

  • 8 For more information about the import of regional LGBTQ publications for building Toronto’s ArQuive (...)
  • 9 For example, Stephen Libby, publisher of Gaydar (2004-2008) and current publisher of The Gay Journa (...)
  • 10 Lambda Valley Monthly (unprocessed), The Dixie Dugan White Papers (unprocessed), LVCA 021, Lehigh V (...)

5The collections also contain large holdings associated with regional LGBTQ publications; like Toronto’s ArQuives and Los Angeles’ ONE Archives, our archives began with strong contributions from LGBT community members involved in producing regional publications.8 Because editors of regional LGBT magazines frequently served as photographers of community events, writers focused on local activism, and networkers determined to publish articles by area activists, they contributed rich materials to the archives beyond their publications.9 The Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive contains publications that document the evolution of our community across decades, including Lambda Valley Monthly [1985-1988], Above Ground [1994-1998], Valley Free Press/ Valley Gay Press [1998-2016], Gaydar [2005-2008], and Panzee Press [2007-2009].10 As a few publishers worked with activist organizations, they also donated materials from PA League of Gay and Lesbian Voters, PA-GALA, and PDN. One of the most recent accessions to the archives is papers from local activist Dixie Dugan White (1943-2020). Her work in the community spans the years of the materials that currently make up the archives and further supports the history of activism that has been so prevalent in the LGBTQ community since the late 1960s.

6As BSC maintains close connections with regional activist organizations, political leaders, and community members, they continue to build the archives through strong relationships. Indeed, the creation of the community center and their leadership’s attention to regional history made the archives possible; without their leadership, LGBT materials would either be left in basements and attics, thrown out after the deaths of our elders by friends or family members, or donated to institutions that have little time or interest in processing material. With the earliest materials dating from 1969, the collection is a constantly growing historical resource as BSC leaders are trusted by organizational leaders and community members to preserve historical materials. There is active accessioning of materials for the archives especially from key LGBT organizational leaders in our region even as archivists are working to build collections with personal materials from community members.

7The majority of the archives is made up of paper records but also includes objects such as shirts, pins, a neon bar sign, award plaques, recorded oral histories, and banners. These objects were donated from a variety of social and religious organizations such as A Chorus Celebrating Women, the Gay Men’s Chorus, Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley, and Metropolitan Community Church Lehigh Valley. When two area bars closed, Diamonz Nightclub and Candida’s Bar, the archives received memorabilia from establishment owners. As collection continues, more born-digital materials are being preserved; these materials include correspondence, digital videos, and photographs. Sending newly-published materials to the archives is becoming part of the workflow for local organizations and publications. In addition to the born-digital items, we prioritize the digitization of locally-relevant materials, including LGBTQ periodicals, programs, guides, newsletters, and photographs. With permission, these are made publicly available, thus promoting ease of access to community members and researchers. Digitization is a priority for two reasons. First, as the archives are located on a private college campus, some community members may feel wary of visiting the library; digitization means fewer institutional impediments to community access. Second, as our regional archives are small, we hope that digitization will allow researchers in other communities to perform comparative studies with other regional archives; digitization means greater visibility and accessibility for LGBTQ historians invested in exploring the contributions of regional publications and organizations to larger political movements, as well as comparisons of LGBTQ social scenes in small urban centers. In short, digital access to local LGBTQ materials provides resources for narrating stories about smaller communities that have been underrepresented in historical accounts about LGBTQ communities.

3. Regional AIDS Activism: LGBTQ Archives in the Classroom

8As leadership of BSC and Muhlenberg archivists began to look beyond the accumulated material that comprised the foundation of the collection, they started to reach out to organizations that have supported the LGBTQ community in the Lehigh Valley for decades, including F.A.C.T. Founded in 1986, F.A.C.T. is an all-volunteer organization that has provided “direct and educational” services and has raised millions of dollars to address the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.11 In anticipation of the arrival of the materials at Trexler Library, Rachel Hamelers, Muhlenberg’s Teaching and Learning Librarian, and Susan Falciani Maldonado, Special Collections and Archives Librarian, proposed a course that would use F.A.C.T.’s collections to explore the Lehigh Valley history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and accompanying activism. Hamelers had previously offered courses about national HIV/AIDS activism; with the addition of regional archival materials, she envisioned a course that would allow students to address how local organizations built from their counterparts in NYC and other major metropolises to address the specific needs of Lehigh Valley communities. Falciani Maldonado saw the opportunity to teach students about archival praxis and, most importantly, the role and history of archives within marginalized communities.

  • 12 The course ran for the first time in the spring of 2019 and has become a regular offering.
  • 13 David France, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS (New (...)

9With this dual focus on the value of regional AIDS activism and LGBT archives, Hamelers and Falciani Maldonado created a course titled HIV and AIDS in the Lehigh Valley: Gathering Information on an Outbreak,12 which was organized around the first fifteen years of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S. Students, working in groups, were assigned a year between 1981 and 1995 from the emergence of the disease through the development of effective antiretroviral therapy. David France’s How to Survive a Plague, which primarily narrates the HIV/AIDS crisis from the perspective of those in coastal metropolises, was a core course text.13 France spends only a few pages describing a visit to middle America and his realization of how different the experience of a midwestern AIDS patient was from that of a New Yorker. This begs the core question of the class: what was the experience of people with AIDS, their friends, and families in the 1980s and 1990s in the Lehigh Valley?

10The students were tasked with creating presentations that would juxtapose the national narrative of HIV/AIDS with the Lehigh Valley experience of the crisis. The instructors were already familiar with the landmark events of each year, and the students were assigned course materials, including archival news footage, contemporary movies and television shows, and readings to assist them in understanding the wider narrative. Still, because the story of HIV/AIDS activism in the Lehigh Valley has yet to be compiled in a scholarly narrative, instructors invited students to become community archivists and historians as revealed through the F.A.C.T. collections and additional materials from local newspapers. Throughout the course, students learned how regional activists drew upon the work of their counterparts across the country in order to disseminate information about HIV/AIDS regionally, to create social services for those living with HIV/AIDS, and to raise funds for such services.

1. F.A.C.T. Summer Games Poster

1. F.A.C.T. Summer Games Poster
  • 14 Candida Affa, recorded classroom interview, Allentown, PA, February 6, 2019, Lehigh Valley LGBT Com (...)

11While increasing students’ primary source literacy was a learning goal of the course, the ability to work with archival materials and to learn to navigate the archives of local news outlets proved to be of particular value in two respects. First, students came to understand the value of regional historical research. By joining the faculty members in the discovery of how the HIV/AIDS narrative played out locally, they learned that “history can happen here, too,” as one student noted. Second, their research showed the power, spontaneity, and impact of regional activism in small urban centers. For example, students read about and listened to speakers describe the origins of F.A.C.T., which began with a friendly rivalry between the staff of two Allentown gay bars, Candida’s and Stonewall, as they created a summer event in 1986. Inspired by the Gay Games, organizers created the Summer Games at the nearby Rainbow Mountain Resort as a fundraising competition between the two bars. Raising over $25,000, organizers decided that they wanted to give funds to support individuals suffering from AIDS, but wanted the money to stay in the local community. Bar owner Candida Affa told the class about the origins of F.A.C.T.: “We wanted to give it to AIDS... but we didn’t exactly know who to give it to. So someone suggested that we keep it in the Lehigh Valley. And... in order to do that, we had to form an organization. We had a [colleague] from New Hope, who was a good friend of ours, come up, and he set the whole thing up.”14 The Summer Games would go on to become F.A.C.T.’s signature fundraising event for years to come, which the archives reveal in both the oral histories collections and in meeting notes and fliers about each summer’s activities (see image 1). In her recorded interview with students in the course, Affa emphasized both the fear that community members felt during the early years of the epidemic and the strong sense of community that was built as our regional LGBTQ community rallied to support people living with HIV/AIDS; her sentiments were echoed by other F.A.C.T. founding members who visited the course. By engaging with the records, photographs, and oral narratives of F.A.C.T., these undergraduates were able to learn about the power of a small local group of accidental activists who rose up to address the challenges faced by many in our community during the 1980s and 1990s.

  • 15 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” September 1982, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19, Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Cente (...)
  • 16 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” January 1983, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19, Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center (...)
  • 17 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” September 1982, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19,Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center (...)
  • 18 For information on a specific incident discussed by Le-Hi-Ho, see Dan Pearson, “Allentown Police Co (...)

12Students and faculty also examined the newsletters of Le-Hi-Ho, the first known LGBT organization in the region. Prior to the AIDS crisis, Le-Hi-Ho’s newsletter provided community members with information about the homophile movement and the gay liberation movement; writers and editors like Joseph Burns read gay publications from across the country and visited gay organizations and political events in NYC as well as other cities in order to give our community up-to-date information on relevant issues. Additionally, Le-Hi-Ho built a strong library of books about LGBT issues, which they housed at the Lambda Center. In the early 1980s, this information network was leveraged to share updates on the emerging AIDS crisis,15 including what was known of the disease, what was happening in the Lehigh Valley, and what to do if a person experienced symptoms. “Our newsletter tried to keep you informed,” stated the president of Le-Hi-Ho in the January 1983 issue, “especially of the dangerous AIDS epidemic.”16 The issue also included a nearly full-page discussion of recent research into the transmission of AIDS and the impact of the virus on the immune system as well as a section that advertised tickets for a Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) fundraiser in New York City. While AIDS is a huge focus in the newsletters from the 1980s, editors continued to report on civil rights legislation and activism within and outside or our region: articles include discussion of the Philadelphia City Council’s passage of an amendment to the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, prohibiting anti-gay discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations;17 critical commentary on the growing Moral Majority; and critiques of police targeting of gay men for “lewdness.”18 Le-Hi-Ho newsletters reveal how regional activists maintained a focus on how organizers in NYC and Philadelphia were addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis and delivered news from major urban centers to the Lehigh Valley. The newsletters also positioned information about AIDS within a broader context of the need for legislation to protect the community from discrimination.

  • 19 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” February 1983, LHH-001, Publications Box 1, Le-Hi-Ho Records Collection, Allentown (...)
  • 20 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” March 1983, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19, Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center of (...)

13Further, newsletters reveal that regional activists used strategies of organizations like GMHC to collect and share data from local communities. In February 1983, the first “local report” on AIDS was published in the newsletter, containing both national information and updates from Lehigh Valley hospitals and physicians.19 This report discussed how the “gay disease” was getting more media coverage now that it had been seen in women and children, and it suggests that because of the Lehigh Valley’s proximity to New York, educating oneself on the disease was crucial. The newsletter references an interview of a local doctor who had treated an AIDS patient from New York City. The report mentions that a more comprehensive list of doctors willing to work with gay and lesbian patients was being prepared, and it lists the doctors specializing in infectious diseases in the Lehigh Valley and hospitals currently working AIDS patients. An AIDS specialist from Philadelphia was booked to speak at the March 1983 Le-Hi-Ho meeting; the March 1983 Le-Hi-Ho newsletter talks about changes in rules for blood donation due to the AIDS crisis.20 For students, the newsletters showed the power of regional LGBTQ publications as they ensured access to new medical knowledge about the virus, collected data from local communities, and provided information about medical resources in the Lehigh Valley.

  • 21 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” February 1983, LHH-001, Publications Box 1, Le-Hi-Ho Records Collection, Allentown (...)
  • 22 Thompson, Larry, “‘The Gay Plague’—A Deadly Epidemic Stalks a Lifestyle,” The Sunday Call-Chronicle(...)

14As our community attempted to sift through limited information about AIDS, writers did promote the myth that risk for HIV/AIDS was limited to urban centers like NYC. The 1983 report states, “[g]ays who do not have sex in New York are not yet at much risk.”21 This erroneous message was often seen in the local newspaper, The Morning Call, as well as writers argued that anyone in the Lehigh Valley with the disease was from New York City and had not been infected locally.22 As students encountered claims like this one, they had the opportunity to think about how some members of LGBTQ communities outside of NYC and other urban centers initially responded to the virus. As instructors plan future iterations of the course, there will be greater opportunity to discuss the importance of understanding connectivity of human populations when supporting public health, which is once again relevant during the recent pandemic. Overall, the utilization of local materials in addition to narratives based on NYC and San Francisco allowed students to see how regional activists disseminated data gathered in major urban centers, worked to collect data from our region, and created organizations to meet the needs of regional populations. Students also were able to glimpse how information was communicated in the 1980s and 1990s, which was completely different from the internet-based world they inhabit today.

  • 23 Articles include: Angela L. Di Veglia, “Activism, Accountability, Access: Archival Outreach and the (...)

15In the midst of this work, the class also read and discussed articles about ownership and agency in LGBTQ community archives writ large.23 Students learned about the challenges presented by having the archives of a marginalized community housed in a college or university that by its nature creates invisible barriers to access. They learned about the historical omissions of archives created by individuals in authority who decided whose stories were worth preserving. While working with the physical archives presented students with the opportunity to understand the mechanics of organization and to develop comfort with accessing and analyzing primary source information within the context of community archives, interacting with members of the local LGBTQ community in the classroom connected the students with survivors of the plague. When information was scant and insubstantial, when comfort in the face of ostracism was the only thing they could offer, these local activists established a support system for friends and acquaintances living with and dying from HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the instructors invited two Muhlenberg alumni to speak to the class about LGBTQ life and HIV/AIDS awareness on campus in the 1990s and 2000s. Speakers brought personal photographs that paid tribute to those they had lost; they became openly emotional in the classroom. To a person, the F.A.C.T. members who had lived through the worst of the epidemic told the students how important they feel their testimony is, and how much they appreciated the opportunity to tell young people today that, while manageable, the threat of HIV/AIDS still exists, and vigilance remains important.

4. Building an Exhibition to Explore the Early Years Pride Festivals in the Lehigh Valley

16As explored above, the usage of regional LGBT archival materials greatly enriches courses at local colleges. The F.A.C.T. course allows students to understand the early years of the AIDS epidemic from multiple angles: they learn about the impact of the virus on the LGBTQ community through personal narratives by regional activists; discover how community-based organizations supported HIV-positive people in the face of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic medical institutions and lack of federal funding for research into treatment; and explore how Lehigh Valley LGBTQ communities connected with activist work in other regions even as they built a political platform to effect change locally. Further, as faculty worked closely with AIDS activists from F.A.C.T., they built a stronger archival collection by recording interviews to supplement course material and gathering more documents from organizational leaders to fill out the portion of the archives focused on AIDS activism. In this way, courses can serve as the basis for collection drives in which community members are involved actively in curating material for the archive and developing material by sharing oral histories that reflect upon their work. While courses that utilize archival material fulfill the educational mission of colleges and universities, they do not usually benefit communities directly; even as the F.A.C.T. course invited activists to share precious organizational records for expert preservation and to ensure that their voices would be included in a professional collection of regional LGBTQ history, the course was not open to community members, and thus it did not have a broad impact on our communities and their ability to engage with the history of regional HIV/AIDS activism. Certainly, community members can access materials from F.A.C.T. online, but archivists, faculty, and BSC leaders realize that digital special collections attract academic and journalistic researchers more than they do members of the general public. Thus, we emphasize expanding from a student-based curriculum model for activating regional archives to the creation of physical exhibitions with explanatory and celebratory events as a means to reach Lehigh Valley communities so that they can engage with rich regional LGBT history.

  • 24 Lehigh Valley’s development of Pride Festivals occurred much later than other cities in Pennsylvani (...)
  • 25 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1998, June 1998, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh (...)
  • 26 See “Platform for the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Eqaul Rights andLiberation,” htt (...)

17The first exhibition of archival material focused on the early years of pride festivals in the Lehigh Valley with the aim of offering accessible narratives of 11 critical years in LGBT activism.24 While Pride festivals are celebrations, they also serve as an annual activist and informational event that informs community members about national movement work, regional struggles, and a variety of resources. For Lehigh Valley residents in the early 1990s, Pride festivals outside of our region were important destinations, as were major national protests. For example, PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, the organization that founded the region’s first festival, began on the way home from the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.25 Although a number of important LGBT activist organizations existed in the region, there was no annual event local to our community. This changed after the 1993 March when a group of Lehigh Valley residents took the three-hour drive to Washington, D.C. and were thrilled by the huge turnout to support a political platform that they believed should be shared widely back in eastern Pennsylvania. In particular, activists were invested in how our region might be rallied to support the first demand of March organizers: “We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.”26 As we will address below in discussion of our oral history project, the PA League of Gay and Lesbian Voters had committed to promoting the PA Hate Crimes Bill and felt that grassroots activism in our region could activate a regional base to support both federal and state legislation. The question of how to bring large numbers of LGBT people in the Lehigh Valley to address legislation and other political issues was solved once activists joined other marchers in Washington, D.C.; riding high on the energy from the nation’s Capital, they came home eager to develop an annual Pride festival, which both allowed for regional political organizations to spread information to voters about major legislation and promoted the coalescence of the LGBT community outside of bars in a major public venue. In short, they wanted to bring home the political energy from the March and ignite the local LGBTQ community around national as well as state-specific activism.

2. Pride Guide Timeline

2. Pride Guide Timeline
  • 27 Sophia Lezen, “‘Gay Pride Day’ is Official--County Executive and Allentown Council President Procla (...)
  • 28 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1995, June 1995, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh (...)
  • 29 “Smart Politics at Gay Pride Event,” The Morning Call, June 20, 2001.
  • 30 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1998, June 1998, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh (...)
  • 31 For example, the Pride Guide published in 2000 contains a scathing political advertisement for PA G (...)
  • 32 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 2003, June 2003, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2 Lehigh V (...)

18Our exhibit presents a clear timeline for the first decade of Pride festivals from 1994-2004, which clearly positions the festival’s origins within the 1993 national march in Washington, D.C. (see image 2). Building the exhibit from annual Pride Guides published for the festival, we also address how organizers documented local and national political milestones as well as the increasing appeal of the Festival for local residents. For example, the timeline documents that in 1997 the City of Allentown and Lehigh County declared June 22nd to be “Gay and Lesbian Pride Day”; for the first time, a city in the Lehigh Valley flew a rainbow flag over city hall to recognize LGBT residents.27 City and county celebrations of Pride can be attributed to the growth of the Pride festival and the tireless activism of regional LGBT organizations. In its first year, the Pride festival drew over 1,000 attendees and by 1997 the festival tripled its number of attendees.28 By the fourth year of the festival, regional governmental representatives recognized a substantial voting bloc within the city and county and acted with the symbolic display of the rainbow flag to show support for the LGBT community. By the 8th annual festival, politicians frequented Pride gatherings; in 2001, mayoral candidates, the county executive, county commissioner, and city council members attended the festival to garner residents’ support.29 Pride Guides also connected attendees to national politics by republishing a letter from President Clinton in 1998 that expressed support for “Gay and Lesbian Pride Celebrations” across the nation and a letter from Vice President Al Gore in 2000 that focused on LGBT movements’ attention to the “fundamental [American] values of inclusion, opportunity, and respect for every individual.”30 Republication of these letters should not be seen as a naive celebration of their administration’s actions, especially as Guides also included material that directly challenged the Defense of Marriage Act and lobbied for marriage equality.31 While Pride Guides centrally focus on political change that benefits LGBTQ communities, they also reveal our regional community’s responses to major national events, including the War in Iraq. The theme for our regional Pride Festival in 2003, just months after the U.S. invaded Iraq, was “Peace Through Pride” in opposition to American militarism.32

19Following the exhibit’s opening timeline, we include a number of panels that show the political and social import of Pride Festivals in the Lehigh Valley with an emphasis on the impact of the growing annual event. Our panel titled “Sponsorship” tells the story of the original supporters of the festival: LGBTQ bars and organizations. As many prominent businesses feared backlash from anti-LGBTQ clients, early Pride organizers depended on LGBTQ businesses as donors. With the large number of attendees at later festivals and growing acceptance of LGBTQ people in the Lehigh Valley, other sponsors were recruited in later years, including major regional organizations like Lucent Technologies. While current discussions of the role of corporate sponsors in the LGBTQ movement have merit, early pride organizers relied on corporate support as their funding allowed for the expansion of the regional festival and signaled a cultural shift in our region in which well-known local employers and businesses put money behind their lip-service to supporting diversity in our region. Another panel in the exhibit focuses upon how LGBTQ organizations used Pride Guides to promote LGBTQ people’s health and to address discrimination in healthcare facilities. In the 1990s, Pride Guides provided information about HIV/AIDS services, including information about healthcare providers and community-based caregivers for HIV+ people and educational programming for churches, civic groups, and schools to combat prejudice against those living with HIV/AIDS. Pride Guides also feature information about LGBTQ-friendly primary doctors and mental health professionals. Other panels show how annual festivals created unique opportunities to share information about cultural organizations and artists, to document the work of political and advocacy groups, and to eulogize and mourn those lost to AIDS. Ultimately, our exhibition reveals the political power of Pride festivals in our region as they pushed for stronger regional governmental support of LGBTQ communities, fostered annual conversations about national and local political platforms to support LGBTQ civil rights, and provided detailed information about healthcare providers and businesses that supported LGBTQ people. In this way, our exhibition offered community members new ways to understand our annual Pride Festivals as spaces for celebration rooted in political activism and movements for social change as well as spaces to learn about the variety of organizations committed to improving the lives of LGBTQ people in the Lehigh Valley. The composition of our exhibit team ensured intergenerational conversations about the connections between regional activism and national platforms. And as the exhibition traveled from BSC to area colleges and included panel discussions by exhibit organizers, we provided educational opportunities for students and community members to learn about the political history of regional Pride festivals.

5. Sparking Conversation about LGBT Activism through Oral History

20Our current oral history collections supplement documents and memorabilia in order to narrate stories of regional LGBTQ activism with a focus on life stories of those in their 70s and 80s. In the first year of oral history collecting, we interviewed activists from major regional organizations, including Le-Hi-Ho (1969-1990s), Pennsylvania/Lehigh Valley Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1994-1997), Pennsylvania League of Gay and Lesbian Voters, PA-GALA (1997-2005), the Lehigh Valley chapter of the National Organization for Women, PDN (2004-2009), and Eastern PA PFLAG (early 1990s-present). While all of the interviews offered nuanced accounts of the value of regional activism, many narrators mentioned a groundbreaking battle in the 1990s to amend Pennsylvania’s Hate Crimes legislation to enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity and to amend the City of Allentown’s anti-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ people. Both the successful statewide and local fights loom large in Lehigh Valley LGBTQ elders' minds as rooted in effective organizing strategies that they argue are relevant for today’s LGBTQ activists. By collecting and sharing their stories, we show how regional activists’ work impacts statewide and national LGBTQ civil rights struggles.

21In 1994, Pennsylvania League of Gay and Lesbian Voters members Chris Young and Steve Black of Pen Argyl met Lehigh Valley residents Liz Bradbury and Patricia Sullivan at the first Lehigh Valley Pride Festival. As mentioned above, Lehigh Valley activists were keen to use the festival as a way to increase the political consciousness and action of the LGBTQ community. In short, early Pride Festivals allowed like-minded political activists to find each other. The League’s major work during each year was to produce Voters’ Guides for each election cycle that were packed with survey responses from candidates across the state of Pennsylvania about their support for or lack of support for legislation that benefited LGBTQ people. The Guides also included endorsements of candidates that the League felt would most benefit LGBTQ people once in office. While Chris Young and others spent time collecting data in the Western Pennsylvania, Black, Bradbury, and Sullivan devoted enormous amounts of time to interviewing candidates in Eastern Pennsylvania. Importantly, League members surveyed or interviewed every candidate for local and statewide office from city council and school board hopefuls to county coroner and controller aspirants. Guides also offered information about candidates for state governor and congress. Voters’ Guides included survey responses from each candidate or documented the lack of response from candidates, which inevitably ensured that they would not be endorsed by the League. With the original Guides, voters could find their specific county, read through candidates’ stances on LGBT-friendly legislation, or simply cut out the endorsements card and take it with them to the voting booth. When Bradbury and Sullivan left the League they founded a new organization, PA-GALA, and continued work on Voters’ Guides for the eastern part of the state until 2007 (see image 3).

3. PA-GALA Flyer

3. PA-GALA Flyer
  • 33 Bob Wittman, “Gays Say Cramsey Betrayed Them—Allentown Council Hopeful Backed Anti-Bias Bill, Then (...)
  • 34 PA-GALA’s work also attracted national political attention as members like Steve Black were selecte (...)
  • 35 For discussion of the passage of amendments to the PA Hate Crimes Bill, see Linda K. Harris and Amy (...)
  • 36 For an example of the connections between regional organizations advocating for Hate Crimes legisla (...)
  • 37 Regional news coverage from this period showcases PA-GALA’s influence on regional representatives a (...)

22For Bradbury, Voters’ Guides were central factors in the ultimate passage of amendments to the PA Hate Crimes Bill in 2002 to include LGBTQ people as a protected class for a number of reasons. First, Voters’ Guides made it easy for LGBTQ people and allies to learn about candidates. Bradbury argues in her oral history that the reason most people do not vote is due to their desire to avoid making an error and voting for a candidate that will not represent their interests. Voters’ Guides addressed this problem and provided clear and accessible narratives about candidates, at times placing skull and crossbones graphics next to a candidate to indicate their poisonous political stances on civil rights for LGBTQ people (see image 4). Second, Guides gave readers information on their districts and where to vote in their communities. Bradbury states in her interview that many people don’t know their district and thus have a difficult time figuring out which candidates they should research. Further, she notes that many voters do not know how to find their voting centers in their communities. PA-GALA organizers solved this problem by listing the district and location of polls for each recipient of the Guide on labels attached to their mailings. They also set up phone banks to call recipients of the Guides, to remind them to vote, and to clarify their district information if needed. Third, the work of the League and PA-GALA organizers helped to create LGBTQ voting blocs in specific regions and across the state. As Bradbury notes, the goal of PA-GALA was to create LGBTQ super voters that could swing elections in the eastern part of the State; they were successful in this goal, as we will explore below in discussion of the Allentown Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. Finally, as the numbers of LGBTQ people and allies that received Guides increased, PA-GALA and other political organizations could pressure both elected officials and candidates to support statewide legislation as governmental officials and hopefuls began to see the power of the LGBTQ vote. Although the specific number of Guides printed and distributed in each election cycle is unclear, Bradbury recalls that she, Sullivan, and Black mailed thousands of guides and distributed thousands more to LGBT businesses, religious organizations like Metropolitan Community Churches, and bars each year. In one newspaper account, PA-GALA is noted to reach over 2,000 households in the Lehigh Valley and 38,000 households statewide.33 Thus, PA-GALA could produce political pressure from voters with phone bank sessions and mailings in eastern counties of the state. Because Guides focused intently on PA Hate Crimes legislation from 1994-2002, they steadily increased political pressure from constituents as they lobbied representatives and voted in candidates that supported such legislation.34 Thus, Guides are an important part of the political story about how PA Hate Crimes legislation was amended to include LGBTQ people and those perceived to be LGBTQ in 2002.35 While clearly other LGBTQ organizations across the state contributed powerfully to the passage of Hate Crimes legislation, including the Philadelphia-based Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights on the eastern side of the state,36 PA-GALA’s work with Voters’ Guides and lobbying of political representatives both in our region and beyond is a key part of this larger story.37 Even though amendments to the Hate Crimes Bill were overturned in 2007, PA-GALA’s work with voters to support such legislation should not be overlooked.

4. Voters’ Guide

4. Voters’ Guide

23In both Bradbury and Sullivan’s oral histories, they express seeing Voters’ Guides as an effective political strategy for activating a base of voters to support progressive causes. Bradbury argues that LGBTQ Voters’ Guides are an important model for young activists today and bemoans the absence of such Guides for contemporary LGBTQ voters in Pennsylvania. Due to a desire to focus more on educational programming and tension within PA-GALA, Bradbury and Sullivan decided to leave the political organization and begin a new non-profit, PDN. In their absence, Steve Black continued to produce Voters’ Guides, but ultimately ceased to produce them. For Bradbury, the loss of Guides has impacted the political climate in PA and she maintains a desire to see the next generation take up this strategy to continue the fight for civil rights and liberation for diverse LGBTQ people.

  • 38 For local reportage on the Philadelphia legislation and its aftermath, see Michael A. Ruane, “A Hom (...)
  • 39 William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania, 138-140, 146-152.
  • 40 See Mary Nancarrow, Oral History, October 9, 2013, LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, Dicki (...)
  • 41 William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania, 140-146.
  • 42 See Ron Devlin, “Now Out of the Closet, Gays Find Space,” The Morning Call, June 23, 1985.

24While PA-GALA organizers along with other statewide LGBTQ organizations successfully supported amendments to the statewide Hate Crimes Bill, they also effectively organized voters in the City of Allentown to push council members to amend their anti-discrimination ordinance to include LGBTQ people as well. Allentown LGBTQ activists, of course, were not the first in Pennsylvania to lobby for amendments to civic anti-discrimination ordinances. Following Philadelphia’s passage of anti-discrimination legislation in 1982 to protect lesbian and gay people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation,38 Harrisburg and York adopted 1983 ordinances that “forbade discrimination based on sexual preference.”39 According to Mary Nancarrow, a member of the Rural Gay Caucus and drafter of the Harrisburg ordinance, Harrisburg was the first city in the state to include gender identity in their anti-discrimination legislation.40 Lancaster followed suit passing an ordinance to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in 1991 even though it could not be enforced due to county interference until 2001.41 Like activists in these cities, LGBTQ people in Allentown lobbied for amendments to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in the mid-1980s, but did not find enough government support for such amendments.42 In the late 1990s, PA-GALA picked up the work of earlier activists and focused their attention on adding Allentown to the list of cities with amended anti-discrimination ordinances; still, they wanted to move past limited protections for gays and lesbians in other cities’ legislation to include transgender people (as did Harrisburg in 1983). They began by endorsing city council candidates that vocally supported LGBTQ residents. And they were incredibly effective. In 2001 The Morning Call wrote about the impact of PA-GALA on local elections:

  • 43 The Morning Call, “Smart Politics at Gay Pride Event.”

[M]embers of the local chapter of PA-GALA... have established themselves as a political force that no longer can be ignored at election time…. Its 2,000 members in Lehigh and Northampton County are registered to vote, and the group provides them with voters guides that track candidates' positions and records. That membership includes between 400 and 500 Allentown residents. In this city, Primary Election nominations are won with margins of only a few dozen votes. You do the math.43

  • 44 One example of this is PA-GALA’s political work to oust City Councilwoman Mary Cramsey as she ran t (...)
  • 45 See Rabbi Eugene A Wernick, “Extend Rights in Allentown,” The Morning Call, March 29, 1998. Also, s (...)
  • 46 See Ron Devlin, “Gay Right Focus of City Bill,” The Morning Call, March 21, 1998.
  • 47 “Pennsylvania Human Relations Act: Local Suit Should Prompt State to State to Extend Anti-Discrimin (...)
  • 48 “Pennsylvania Human Relations Act: Local Suit Should Prompt State to State to Extend Anti-Discrimin (...)

25By endorsing progressive Democratic candidates, they were a part of ousting conservative, anti-LGBTQ Democrats from council and priming civic governance for changes to city-wide policy.44 So, too, they focused on mayoral candidates that would support changes to the anti-discrimination ordinance. And PA-GALA was successful in combating homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia promoted by religious leaders by partnering with progressive and inclusive churches and synagogues as well as LGBTQ-friendly religious leaders in the Lehigh Valley.45 In partnership with Felix Molina, Vice President of the Puerto Rican Cultural Alliance and Chair of the Allentown Human Relations Commission, PA-GALA lobbied the Commission to propose amendments to the ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.46 PA-GALA members recruited Mara Keisling, who led SPARC (Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition), to draft language for the revised ordinance to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. Importantly, according to Bradbury, Keisling’s language in the Allentown ordinance was then used as a model ordinance elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Keisling’s and PA-GALA’s Allentown ordinance contributed to renewed focus on adding gender identity to existing local legislation and inspired other municipalities to follow.47 Indeed, the Allentown ordinance sparked nationwide conversation as its passage resulted in an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defense Fund, a national evangelical organization focused on overturning pro-LGBTQ legislation.48 With passage of amendments to the Allentown ordinance in 2002 and the failure of a referendum and lawsuit to overturn them, LGBTQ people were protected by law as people who should “enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and [be] afforded equal opportunities for employment, housing, and use of public accommodation facilities.” 

  • 49 Eric Stein, Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement (New York: Routledge, 2012), 193-195.

26We conclude with this story from our oral history collection to show how hyperlocal activism can have widespread repercussions for legislation across the state. The passage of amendments to a city ordinance revealed that long term political commitment to LGBTQ voter education, voter turnout, and vetting of candidates with detailed surveys and interviews can bear fruit in the form of legislation. And local ordinances not only speak to the residents of specific municipalities, but encourage residents in other regions to lobby their city councils for similar amendments or other forms of policy change. Allentown activists’ stories and regional archives more broadly can add important information to national narratives of LGBTQ civil rights battles. As Eric Stein notes, “an important goal of the gay and lesbian movement from 1950 to 1990 was the enactment of antidiscrimination laws and the elimination of discriminatory policies and practices at all levels of government”49; Allentown’s activists reveal how regional players contributed to this larger national story.

  • 50 Eric Stein, Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement, 167.
  • 51 Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (D (...)

27Today, scholars and activists freely debate the value of anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation. As Eric Stein notes, “Gays and lesbians won hundreds discrimination cases…, but they also lost hundreds. The legal remedies available to gays and lesbians who experienced discrimination continued to vary greatly in different jurisdictions and in different aspects of social, cultural, and political life.”50 Scholars like Dean Spade trace this historical phenomenon in critiques of both Hate Crimes legislation and anti-discrimination ordinances as he argues that “pervasive discrimination” continues for trans and non-binary people, people of color, and LGB people “despite decades of official prohibitions of such behavior.”51 Still, Spade and Craig Willse maintain that there are benefits to such activism:

  • 52 Dean Spade and Craig Willse, “Confronting the Limits of Gay Hate Crimes Activism: A Radical Critiqu (...)

28Beyond the direct services offered to victims of hate crimes, activism at the legislative level helps form a consensus about the rights of stigmatized groups to be protected from hateful speech and physical violence. When most popular rhetoric about “homosexuals” condemns us as immoral individuals and threats to public health, hate crimes activism can produce a counter-discourse asserting that homosexuals in fact deserve the status of protected minorities. In this sense, hate crimes activism seeks out a positive premise about a group that most people can agree with despite their distaste for the group, and capitalizes on that consensus to create a public space for speaking in favor of equality for that group.52

  • 53 Dean Spade, Normal Life, 69, 68, 106-107.

29While activists and scholars continue to redefine political strategies for the contemporary moment, we affirm the value of regional archival studies for promoting greater understanding of the aims of earlier LGBTQ leaders and organizations in ways that Spade and Willse do here even as they call for a shift in political focus for the twenty-first century. And we affirm that strategies like Voters’ Guides will be useful for activists even as the focus of movement work shifts from anti-discrimination legislation and toward other key areas such as “resisting prison expansion and criminalization,” increasing the life chances of the most vulnerable in our communities by addressing discrimination in “schools, hospitals… tax systems, prisons, welfare systems, shelters, [and] group homes,” and “developing law and policy reform targets as campaign issues” that focus on the transforming the latter institutions.53

30To close, PA-GALA proved to be an important volunteer-run organization who used Voters’ Guides, phone trees, publications in regional LGBTQ magazines, advocating of state and civic representatives, and the creation of a wide variety of community events to produce law and policy reforms effectively. While advocating for anti-discrimination policies or hate crimes legislation have fallen out of favor in some quarters, we nevertheless believe that our regional activists’ tactics provide instructional value for LGBTQ activists in and beyond our region. Further, regional archival activation in the ways that we describe above are valuable ways to encourage local political consciousness-raising about law and policy, to show the import of regional LGBTQ communities for state and national struggles, and to create pathways for intergenerational knowledge sharing that can support new directions for LGBTQ movement work today.

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Notes

1 As Daniel Marshall, Kevin P. Murphy, and Zeb Tortorici argue, “The gay and lesbian archival projects that emerged during the 1970s liberationist wave of organization set the terms of much of the relevant research and scholarship that followed” (2). See Daniel Marshall, Kevin P. Murphy, and Zeb Tortorici, “Editors’ Introduction: Queering Archives: Historical Unravelings,” Radical History Review, Issue 120 (Fall 2014): 1-11. For an academic discussion of LGBTQ archives in New York (Lesbian Herstory Archives), Los Angeles and West Hollywood (ONE Archives: National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC and June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives), and Toronto (ArQuives), see Rebecka Taves Sheffield, Documenting Rebellions: A Study of Four Lesbian and Gay Archives in Queer Times (Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books, 2020). For more information about the Lesbian Herstory Archives, see Joan Nestle, “The Will to Remember: The Lesbian Herstory of New York,” Feminist Review, No. 34 (Spring 1990): 86-94. For a discussion of the ONE Archives, see Jamie Scot, “A Revisionist History: How Archives are Used to Reverse the Erasure of Queer People in Contemporary History,” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 2014): 205-209. For a discussion of the GLBT Historical Society and Museum, see Don Romesburg, “Presenting the Queer Past: A Case for the GLBT History Museum,” Radical History Review, Issue 120 (Fall 2014): 131-144; and Gerard Koskovich, “Displaying the Queer Past: Purposes, Publics, and Possibilities at the GLBT History Museum,” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 2014): 61-68.

2 For a discussion of the challenges of funding for LGBTQ community archives, see Diana K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce, “The Case of LLACE: Challenges, Triumphs, and Lessons of Community Archives,” The American Archivist, Vol. 76, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2013): 438-457, especially 441-442.

3 In Pennsylvania, our archival team has benefitted from the work of the LGBT Center of Central PA History Project (https://centralpalgbtcenter.org/lgbt-history-project) as a model for community-based archival collection and exhibition. For a rich discussion of Central PA LGBT history based on this project, see William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania: The History of an LGBTQ Community (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020). Other recent monographs also address LGBT archives and archival projects outside of New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in lesser studied urban centers. See Alana Kumbier, Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive (Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books, 2014), especially Kumbier’s discussion of archival projects focused on Drag King communities in New Orleans (121-152). For a discussion of Sacramento’s Lavender Library, Archives and Cultural Exchange (LLACE), see Diana K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce, “The Case of LLACE,” 438-457. Also, see Mary L. Gray, Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley, ed., Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies (New York: NYU Press, 2016) for a number of articles on different rural queer archival projects.

4 Diana K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce, “The Case of LLACE,” 439. For critique of the urban focus of LGBTQ studies in queer theory, see Scott Herring, Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism (New York: New York University Press, 2010); J. Jack Halberstam, In A Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005), especially 36 for Halberstam’s discussion of metronormativity; and Mary L. Gray, Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley, ed., Queering the Countryside (New York: NYU Press, 2016), 1-22.

5 For information about the Central PA LGBT Center History Project, see https://centralpalgbtcenter.org/lgbt-history-project. For information about William Way LGBT Community Center’s archives, see https://www.waygay.org/archives.

6 Diana K. Wakimoto, Debra L. Hansen, and Christine Bruce, “The Case of LLACE,” 440-441. Also, see Elizabeth Knowlton, “Documenting the Gay Rights Movement,” Provenance, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1987): 17-30.

7 An oral history with Frank Whelan, a Le-Hi-Ho member and active supporter of the Lambda Center, discusses what he deems to be a particularly painful part of regional history when AIDS services leadership decided to sever ties with the Lambda Center in order to appease a powerful donor from the Rodale family. See Frank Whelan, transcript of an oral history conducted 2019 by Mary Foltz, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Oral History Project, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA.

8 For more information about the import of regional LGBTQ publications for building Toronto’s ArQuives, see Rebecka Taves Sheffield, Documenting Rebellions, 27-33. Sheffield also traces the origin of the ONE Archives to ONE magazine; see Rebecka Taves Sheffield, Documenting Rebellions, 49-53. Also, see C. Todd White, Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2010).

9 For example, Stephen Libby, publisher of Gaydar (2004-2008) and current publisher of The Gay Journal, contributed his personal papers to the archives. Liz Bradbury, publisher of The Valley Gay Press, also contributed personal papers. See Gaydar, LVCA016, Box 1, The Stephen Libby Collection, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/lehighvalleylgbtcommunityarchive?&and[]=creator%3A%22stephen%20libby%22. Also, see Valley Gay Press, LVCA010, Box 1, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/lehighvalleylgbtcommunityarchive?and%5B%5D=valley+free+press&sin=.

10 Lambda Valley Monthly (unprocessed), The Dixie Dugan White Papers (unprocessed), LVCA 021, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. Above Ground, LVCA008, Box 1, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. Panzee Press, LVCA009, Box 1, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/lehighvalleylgbtcommunityarchive?and[]=creator%3A%22winpenny%2C+bolton%3B+winpenny%2C+michael%22.

11 See https://factlv.org/ for more information about this organization.

12 The course ran for the first time in the spring of 2019 and has become a regular offering.

13 David France, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS (New York: Vintage Books, 2017).

14 Candida Affa, recorded classroom interview, Allentown, PA, February 6, 2019, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College.

15 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” September 1982, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19, Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. Also, see “Le-Hi-Ho News,” December 1982, LHH-001, Publications Box 1, Le-Hi-Ho Records Collection, Allentown Public Library, Allentown, PA.

16 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” January 1983, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19, Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

17 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” September 1982, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19,Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

18 For information on a specific incident discussed by Le-Hi-Ho, see Dan Pearson, “Allentown Police Combat Lewdness in Park Restroom,” The Morning Call, April 19, 1982.

19 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” February 1983, LHH-001, Publications Box 1, Le-Hi-Ho Records Collection, Allentown Public Library, Allentown, PA.

20 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” March 1983, LGBT-001, Box 3, Folder 19, Joseph W. Burns Collection, LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

21 “Le-Hi-Ho News,” February 1983, LHH-001, Publications Box 1, Le-Hi-Ho Records Collection, Allentown Public Library, Allentown, PA.

22 Thompson, Larry, “‘The Gay Plague’—A Deadly Epidemic Stalks a Lifestyle,” The Sunday Call-Chronicle, August 1, 1982. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/58022779/thompson-gay-plague. Also, see Wlazelek, Ann and Paul Wirth, “3 AIDS Cases in L.V. Spur No Health Alarm,” The Morning Call. August 31, 1983. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/58033850/3-aids-cases.

23 Articles include: Angela L. Di Veglia, “Activism, Accountability, Access: Archival Outreach and the LGBT Community,” 2010. https://doi.org/10.17615/v3m7-ch16; and Barry Loveland and Malinda Triller Doran, “Out of the Closet and into the Archives: A Partnership Model for Community-Based Collection and Preservation of LGBTQ History,” Pennsylvania History 83, No. 3 (2016): 418–24.

24 Lehigh Valley’s development of Pride Festivals occurred much later than other cities in Pennsylvania. For a discussion of the development of Pride festivals in Central PA and Philadelphia, which began to be organized in 1976, see William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania, 174-188. Harrisburg’s activists’ Gay Pride events began in 1984; see William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania, 175.

25 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1998, June 1998, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide1998/page/n11/mode/2up.

26 See “Platform for the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Eqaul Rights andLiberation,” http://www.qrd.org/qrd/events/mow/mow-full.platform (Accessed August 14, 2020). PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley directly pulled from this platform to produce their own mission statement, a portion of which reads, “The purpose of PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley shall be the advancement of gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights and pride through community outreach.” See PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1998, June 1998, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide1998/page/n11/mode/2up.

27 Sophia Lezen, “‘Gay Pride Day’ is Official--County Executive and Allentown Council President Proclaim the Special Event. The Movement’s Rainbow Flag Flies Over City Hall,” The Morning Call, June 23, 1997.

28 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1995, June 1995, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide1995/page/n13/mode/2up.

29 “Smart Politics at Gay Pride Event,” The Morning Call, June 20, 2001.

30 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 1998, June 1998, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide1998/page/n11/mode/2up; and PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 2000, June 2000, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide2000/page/n15/mode/2up.

31 For example, the Pride Guide published in 2000 contains a scathing political advertisement for PA Gay and Lesbian Voters PAC that targets governmental representatives that supported legislation against marraige equality or otherwise “attacked” lesbian, gay and bisexual people and communities. See PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 2000, June 2000, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2, Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide2000/page/n15/mode/2up.

32 PRIDE of the Lehigh Valley, Pride Guide 2003, June 2003, LGBT Publications, LVCA011, Box 2 Lehigh Valley LGBT Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. https://archive.org/details/prideguide2003/page/n1/mode/2up.

33 Bob Wittman, “Gays Say Cramsey Betrayed Them—Allentown Council Hopeful Backed Anti-Bias Bill, Then Flip-Flopped,” The Morning Call, October 28, 1999.

34 PA-GALA’s work also attracted national political attention as members like Steve Black were selected as candidates for the Democratic National Convention in 2000. See Jordan D. Hyman, “Gays and Lesbians Named as Delegate Candidates—Two People from the Valley Were Chosen,” The Express-Times, January 5, 2000.

35 For discussion of the passage of amendments to the PA Hate Crimes Bill, see Linda K. Harris and Amy Worden, “How Pa. Heartland Went for Gay Rights,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2002.

36 For an example of the connections between regional organizations advocating for Hate Crimes legislation that links PA-GALA and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, see Beth Braverman, “Sexual Minorities Fight for Freedom from Discrimination,” The Express-Times, Februaray 14, 2004.

37 Regional news coverage from this period showcases PA-GALA’s influence on regional representatives as well as their work in Harrisburg as they organized and participated in rallies for Hate Crimes legislation. See Chris Parker, “Planned Hate Crime Legislation Garners Support—Bills Would Expand Current Law to Protect Homosexuals, People with Disabilities,” The Morning Call, March 23, 1999.

38 For local reportage on the Philadelphia legislation and its aftermath, see Michael A. Ruane, “A Homosexual Task Force is Losing Funding and Its Office,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 3, 1984. Also, for an academic account of the interracial struggle for civic legislation, see Kevin J. Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969-1982,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 98, No. 1 (June 2011): 48-72, especially 66-72.

39 William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania, 138-140, 146-152.

40 See Mary Nancarrow, Oral History, October 9, 2013, LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, PA.

41 William Burton and Barry Loveland, Out in Central Pennsylvania, 140-146.

42 See Ron Devlin, “Now Out of the Closet, Gays Find Space,” The Morning Call, June 23, 1985.

43 The Morning Call, “Smart Politics at Gay Pride Event.”

44 One example of this is PA-GALA’s political work to oust City Councilwoman Mary Cramsey as she ran to maintain her seat on council in 1999. Cramsey claimed that she supported amendments to the city’s anti-discrimination legislation to include LGBT people on surveys distributed by PA-GALA, but later “flip-flopped” and reported that she would not support amendments under any circumstances as she was “vehemently opposed to this lifestyle.” PA-GALA successfully highlighted Cramsey’s dishonesty and she was not reelected to council. See Bob Wittman, “Gays Say Cramsey Betrayed Them—Allentown Council Hopeful Backed Anti-Bias Bill, Then Flip-Flopped,” The Morning Call, October 29, 1999. Also, see Edgar Sandoval, “Allentown Will Introduce Anti-Bias Bill with New Language on Who’s Protected. It Seeks to Add Sexual Orientation, Gender, to Human Relations Code,” The Morning Call, March 16, 2002.

45 See Rabbi Eugene A Wernick, “Extend Rights in Allentown,” The Morning Call, March 29, 1998. Also, see Roberta Kreider, transcript of an oral history conducted by John Marquette, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Oral History Project, Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA.

46 See Ron Devlin, “Gay Right Focus of City Bill,” The Morning Call, March 21, 1998.

47 “Pennsylvania Human Relations Act: Local Suit Should Prompt State to State to Extend Anti-Discrimination Protections,” The Morning Call, August 1, 2003.

48 “Pennsylvania Human Relations Act: Local Suit Should Prompt State to State to Extend Anti-Discrimination Protections,” The Morning Call, August 1, 2003.

49 Eric Stein, Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement (New York: Routledge, 2012), 193-195.

50 Eric Stein, Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement, 167.

51 Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 40.

52 Dean Spade and Craig Willse, “Confronting the Limits of Gay Hate Crimes Activism: A Radical Critique,” Chicano/Latino Law Review, Vol. 38 (2000): 41.

53 Dean Spade, Normal Life, 69, 68, 106-107.

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List of illustrations

Title 1. F.A.C.T. Summer Games Poster
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/docannexe/image/18365/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.5M
Title 2. Pride Guide Timeline
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/docannexe/image/18365/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 746k
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/docannexe/image/18365/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 564k
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/docannexe/image/18365/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 707k
Title 3. PA-GALA Flyer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/docannexe/image/18365/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.3M
Title 4. Voters’ Guide
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/docannexe/image/18365/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 761k
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References

Electronic reference

Mary Foltz, Susan Falciani Maldonado, Kristen Leipert, Rachel Hamelers and Adrian Shanker, LGBTQ Community Archives in Small Urban Centers: Reflections on Community and University Partnerships to Build Awareness of the Lehigh Valley’s Rich LGBTQ History from AIDS Activism to Anti-Discrimination LegislationEuropean journal of American studies [Online], 17-2 | 2022, Online since 05 July 2022, connection on 12 August 2022. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/18365; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ejas.18365

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About the authors

Mary Foltz

Mary C. Foltz is Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University and the Director of the South Side Initiative, which fosters collaborative research projects with community partners. Over the past years, Foltz has partnered with staff and archivists at the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive to produce a number of public-facing projects that focus on regional LGBTQ history in eastern Pennsylvania, including exhibitions and oral history projects. In 2021, Foltz received an ACLS Scholars and Society fellowship to work with archivists to expand LGBTQ archival collections in her region and to produce accessible exhibitions of archival material to engage public audiences.

Susan Falciani Maldonado

Susan Falciani Maldonado is the Special Collections & Archives Librarian at Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College. Susan holds a BA in History from the College of William & Mary and an MLIS from Rutgers University. She is particularly interested in the use of college history as a lens through which students can examine historical events, culture, and society.

Kristen Leipert

Kristen Leipert is the former Digital Project Archivist at Muhlenberg College and Archivist at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center where she maintained the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive and worked on three grant-funded oral history projects including “40 Years of Public Health Experiences in the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community: Collecting and Curating Local LGBT Health Experiences from HIV/AIDS to COVID-19.” She was previously the Archivist at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and is currently the Reference Librarian at the Bethlehem Area Public Library in Bethlehem, PA. Kristen earned a B.A. in Art History from Ithaca College and a M.L.I.S. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Archives and Records Management from Long Island University.

Rachel Hamelers

Rachel Hamelers (she/her/hers) serves as the Teaching and Learning Librarian and the Math and Science subject specialist at Muhlenberg College, Trexler Library in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She teaches classes based on science communication in the Media and Communication department and the Public Health program at Muhlenberg College. Rachel received her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and her graduate degree from the City University of New York, Queens College. Rachel’s research interests include science communication, especially in relation to HIV and AIDS, information literacy instruction, and critical reading instruction in the sciences.

Adrian Shanker

Adrian Shanker (he/him) is executive director of The Spahr Center, Marin County, California's LGBTQ+ center, and is the former (founding) executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is editor of the critically-acclaimed anthology Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health and the forthcoming anthology Crisis and Care: Queer Activist Responses to a Global Pandemic, both from PM Press.

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Copyright

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