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Commemorating
the Gay Pioneers

Fifty years ago, heroic gay and lesbian activists from Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia held the first organized demonstrations for equality. Principal among them were  Frank Kameny (from Washington) and Barbara Gittings (from Philadelphia)—the father and mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.

Called "Annual Reminders," their demonstrations were held each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969. When 40 activists picketed in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell on July 4, 1965, it was the largest demonstration for gay equality in world history.

When the Stonewall riot occurred in 1969, the Gay Pioneers recognized it as the movement's Boston Tea Party. They discontinued the Annual Reminders and put all their energy into a first anniversary Stonewall march the following year. Between 2,000 and 5,000 men and women participated, walking from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Remembered as the first New York Gay Pride Parade, the 1970 march inspired Gay Pride Parades across North America and around the globe.

"Gay Pioneers": The Film

"Gay Pioneers" is directed by award-winning PBS documentary filmmaker Glenn Holsten and produced by PBS affiliate WHYY and Equality Forum. The film braids archival footage from these seminal demonstrations; FBI investigative files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act; on-camera interviews with Gay Pioneers about the homophobia of the era, the protocol for the demonstrations and how those demonstrations affected the movement; and perspectives from Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and Lilli Vincenz regarding same-sex marriage. Read More About the Film and the Gay Pioneers

Frank Kameny

A World War II veteran with an M.A. and a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University, Frank Kameny was discharged from the Army Map Service in 1957 because he was gay. Rather than accept common practices of the times, Kameny fought for his rights. He successfully challenged anti-gay policies of the American Psychiatric Association, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Civil Service Commission. In 1961 Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., with Gay Pioneer Jack Nichols. Read More

Barbara Gittings

Barbara Gittings began her career in activism in 1958 when she founded the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization. She edited DOB's national magazine, The Ladder, from 1963 to 1966. In the 1970's, Gittings campaigned with Frank Kameny and others to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders. Gittings also crusaded to make gay literature available in libraries. Read More

 

 


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