LGBTQ activist Mark Segal just donated his papers to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Starting with the Stonewall Riots, Segal has been “…helping open doors for the LGBTQ community that were not imaginable a half-century ago. From organizing the first Pride March in 1970, to founding Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) and staging takeovers of nationally broadcast news programs, he established himself as one of the most influential civil rights activists in U.S. history. On May 17, 2018, in a gift to posterity, the organizer, publisher and political strategist donated 16 cubic feet of personal papers and artifacts.”
Some, such as the first state-issued Gay Pride Proclamation, are triumphant declarations of progress. “One of the least understood minority groups in this state is that group of men and women who comprise the Gay Liberation Movement,” wrote Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp in June 1976. “I hereby express my support for equal rights for all minority groups and for all those who seek social justice, and dedicate Gay Pride Week to those worthy goals.” Likewise, in a March 1996 letter from President Bill Clinton congratulating PGN on its 20th anniversary in print: “Your newspaper is a wonderful example of the proud American tradition of local publishing… Best wishes for much continued success.”
Others are harrowing testaments to the pain that Segal and his peers have endured in their decades-long struggle for equal rights. One poster, which Segal found affixed to a newspaper box, was part of a mid- to late-’80s hate campaign against PGN. “KILL THE QUEER’S,” it reads, amongst other vicious epithets and KKK insignia.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is located in Washington, DC, on Constitution Avenue, NW, between 12th and 14th Streets. Admission is free. Get information to plan your visit.