597 posts categorized "History"

June 23, 2015

A look at calls to remove confederate symbols across the South

McAuliffe orders Confederate flag off Virginia license plates

June 18, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Take down the Confederate Flag. Now.

Ta-Nehisi is right.

Clarence Thomas upholds Texas's right to bar Confederate flag on license plates

Every once in a while, Justice Thomas rediscovers his soul and does the right thing.

June 16, 2015

New Ways addresses pope’s message of ‘complementarity’

(Photo by Associated Press)

Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry writes:

Pope Francis supported heterosexual complementarity in a speech on Sunday given to 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a pastoral conference for the Diocese of Rome.

Though he did not mention lesbian and gay couples, the timing of the speech seemed significant to some since it came a day after tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of the Eternal City to celebrate LGBT Pride and to call for marriage equality in Italy....

It has become part of Francis’ rhetorical style not to criticize lesbian and gay couples directly, but to indirectly cast judgement on them by effusively praising heterosexual complementarity. Yet, his remarks cast aspersions on more than lesbian and gay couples. In praising heterosexual complementarity as the preferred norm for marriage and child-rearing, he is also sending harmful messages to those in heterosexual marriages where abuse occurs, as well as to single-parent families.

Francis’ remark that gender differences are “an integral part of being human” ignores the fact that decades of scientific and social scientific research has shown that what people consider “natural” gender differences are actually the result of cultural biases and stereotypes.

As GayChristian101 points out, the idea of complementarity comes from Plato, who included same-sex couples.

King John and Magna Carta

This reminds me of a scene from The Lion in Winter:

John: My God, if I went up in flames, there’s not a living soul who’d pee on me to put the fire out.

Richard: Let’s strike a flint and see.

June 15, 2015

Magna Carta at 800

Sarah Lyall at NYT discusses the enduring legacy of the great British document.

June 13, 2015

Gotti, guns & gay bars: Inside NYC's mob history

June 05, 2015


It is most gratifying this LGBT Pride Month to see our late friend and colleague Frank Kameny being honored with a place in the Labor Hall of Honor.

May 28, 2015

July 2-5 in Philadelphia - LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration

Fifty years ago, activists Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny organized an Annual Reminder Day of picketing in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This video touts the commemorative events being planned.

May 27, 2015

Kameny to be inducted into Labor Hall of Honor

I've known this was in the offing. Very happy it's official.

The Einstein of Sex - Magnus Hirschfeld

May 20, 2015

Freedom Riders, 54 years ago today

Here's to real American heroes, and to a new generation taking up their unfinished work.

May 15, 2015

Buried in Baltimore: unraveling an old cover-up of child rape and murder

A conspiracy by police and clergy to cover up child rapes and a murder by a Baltimore high school chaplain is unraveled decades later by alumna of the school.

May 06, 2015

May 14 - Rainbow History Project Community Pioneers Reception


For Immediate Release

2015 LGBT Community Pioneers Reception May 14

The Rainbow History Project will recognize a dozen LGBT Community Pioneers at a reception on Thursday, May 14, at 6:30 pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009. These tenacious and creative individuals are being recognized for their instrumental roles in establishing and sustaining important institutions in the DC LGBT community. The event provides an opportunity for the community to thank them.

The 2015 Community Pioneers are:

  • Jonathan Blumenthal and Eric Cohen, Founders of Burgundy Crescent Volunteers
  • Ruby Corado, Transgender activist and Founder of Casa Ruby
  • Wallace Corbett, AIDS educator
  • Kathleen DeBold, Mautner Project and Lambda Literary Awards Administrator
  • Atul Garg and Yassir Islam, Founders of KhushDC
  • Annette “Chi” Hughes, Founding Member of Sapphire Sapphos and AIDS educator
  • Susan Silber, Trailblazer in LGBT–friendly employment and family law in the DC area
  • Jill Strachan, Leader of local LGBT arts organizations
  • Michele Zavos, Groundbreaker in LGBT-friendly family and HIV/AIDS law in the DC area

The RHP also will recognize the work of a deceased community ally:

  • Annie Kaylor, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse

The Community Pioneers reception provides an opportunity to meet the Pioneers. A commemorative booklet featuring biographies of the Pioneers and their photos will be distributed at the event.

The Community Pioneers reception is free and open to the public. RSVPs are appreciated but not required. RSVP at events@rainbowhistory.org.

The Rainbow History Project has honored Community Pioneers since 2003. You can read about the 62 Community Pioneers previously recognized at

Each of the Pioneers has provided the Rainbow History Project with an oral history detailing their lives in Washington, the forces that led them to work on behalf of the LGBT community, and their accomplishments as well as the obstacles they sought to overcome. In itself, the Community Pioneers collection provides a rich and ongoing effort to document a half-century of important efforts in the local struggle to advance the rights of LGBT people.

The Community Pioneers reception is made possible in part by a grant from Brother Help Thyself. BHT also has funded Rainbow History purchases of a digital camera and recording equipment that have significantly facilitated the collection and dissemination of important historical community information.

Now in its fifteenth year, the Rainbow History Project is dedicated to preserving our community’s memory. Our website has an extensive collection of historically significant images and documents, including summaries of our oral histories collection. Rainbow History holds periodic panels and workshops focused on specific aspects of metropolitan DC LGBT community history, conducts walking tours, and compiles publications discussing historic DC LGBT events and locales. Rainbow History is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and invites all interested individuals to join us.

For more information contact Chair Chuck Goldfarb at Chuck@rainbowhistory.org or 202-431-9139.

When Police Are Outside Agitators

Denmark, still protecting an SS doctor

This is kind of amazing. I thought they would all have been dead by now.

May 01, 2015

Recovering the Histories of LGBT Civil Servants

Charles Francis shares this video by McDermott Will & Emery about the Mattachine Society's archive activism.

America's history of anti-black race riots

April 28, 2015

Ghosts in the Courtroom


On this momentous day at SCOTUS, I reprise my look at the superb results of the Mattachine Society's archive activism, embodied in its amicus brief on the government's history of anti-gay animus. Kudos to Charles Francis for his indefatigable efforts, and to McDermott Will & Emery for their invaluable help.

April 17, 2015

Charles Francis: Best way to remember first White House protests


In today's Blade, Mattachine Society of Washington President Charles Francis, marking today's 50th anniversary of the first gay picket outside the White House, describes the continuing struggle to unearth the history of anti-gay persecution:

[I]t is amazing after 50 years how much we still do not know about what was actually happening to these pioneers and the untold thousands of other gay men and lesbians whose careers and lives were destroyed by federal persecution. For example, most of the personal papers of the U.S. Civil Service Commission Chairman John W. Macy—the leader of the government’s gay ban at what is now the Office of Personnel Management — today remain unavailable to researchers at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin....

Working with our pro bono legal counsel McDermott, Will & Emery, The Mattachine Society of Washington has learned that John Macy’s personal papers are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. He donated them to the National Archives prior to the passage of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 that governs the official records of presidents created or received after 1981. In this way, John Macy to this day has been able to tie up his personal papers with restrictions supposedly to protect the privacy of individuals....

These boxes include the 1965/1966 period when Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Paul Kuntzler, Lilli Vincenz, Kay Lahusen, Jack Nichols and others stood outside the White House fence demanding a meeting. Working with the National Archives, whose archivists understand the importance of the sealed boxes of gay and lesbian history, let’s open up the Macy papers as the best way to honor the men and women who took their case to the American people on a sidewalk with pickets, April 17, 1965. Frank would love it.

Also in today's Blade on the 50th anniversary of the first gay WH protests:

Activists to mark 50th anniversary of first gay rights protests

April 15, 2015

Larry Kramer's latest: 'debasing and vile'

Mattachine Society of Washington President Charles Francis writes of this NYT book review:

The deification of Larry Kramer continues. His latest novel is no history: it is in fact a debasing and vile telling of American history through an obsession of his: the word "shit" beginning in the "penis of America", Florida, with Florida monkeys and the "anus of America", the Everglades. I am not making this up. This is not Annette Gordon-Reed uncovering with meticulous research the "Hemingses of Monticello". Kramer says, "tough shit" in the novel if you ask questions or want more.

Yes. Here is my Nov. 2011 column on Kramer.

April 03, 2015

Sarah Brady dies at 73

One evening thirty years ago, as I approached La Fonda Restaurant at 17th and R Streets NW (which has been gone for twenty years now), a friend and I saw White House press secretary Jim Brady being helped down the few steps into the restaurant and back into his wheelchair by his wife Sarah and a friend. Mrs. Brady urged us to go ahead of them. We said we were in no hurry, and to take their time. I remember the exact day in 1981 when Jim was gravely injured by a bullet from John Hinckley meant for President Reagan, because it was my 25th birthday. The Bradys received bipartisan respect from the people of Washington. No public servant should have to face gunfire. And the Bradys were nice people.

The 1993 Brady Act required background checks on firearm purchasers. In later years, politics shifted to the point where even background checks were blocked. America's Wild West infatuation with guns has only gotten worse. It is a sad thing to contemplate as we mark Sara Brady's passing. Her husband died eight months ago. May they both rest in peace.

March 26, 2015

Go to a revolution and cure your writer's block

Salman Rushdie delightfully recounts how he cured his writer's block in 1986 by going to a revolution. The punchline is great even though you can see it coming a mile off.

March 24, 2015

Ghosts in the Courtroom

(Frank Kameny; Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

My column this week examines the Mattachine Society of Washington's amicus brief in the marriage cases before SCOTUS--featuring newly unearthed original documents that show decades of anti-gay animus in the federal government--animus dismissed in 2013 by Chief Justice Roberts in his dissent in Windsor as "snippets of legislative history."

Cropping up again and again is Frank Kameny, original MSW founder, whose fearlessness, brilliance, and doggedness was a continued thorn in the side of those persecuting us. Bravo to Charles Francis and Pate Felts for their sleuthing, and to McDermott Will & Emery as counsel of record.

Here is the lede:

The late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny's exhortations ring in my ears as I anticipate arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages.

Read the whole thing here.

March 23, 2015

Starbucks ends #RaceTogether initiative

Hardly shocking news, given the mockery Starbucks brought upon itself with this ill-thought-out initiative.

One further thought: The racial oppression in the history of the coffee trade is hardly redeemed by Starbucks hiring lots of black baristas.

March 18, 2015

The sad decline of Walter Fauntroy

(Walter Fauntroy testifies against marriage equality in 2009; photo by Metro Weekly)

WUSA9 News reports:

A bench warrant is on file in Prince George's County for D.C. icon Walter Fauntroy. The pastor and former civil rights leader is believed to be in Africa. His passport has been revoked by the U.S. State Department.

Fauntroy's disappearance has been discussed quietly around town since he apparently came close to being killed around the time of Qadafi's fall in 2011. Prior to that, I heard him give a number of delusional, self-aggrandizing speeches. He was part of the ineffectual group of ministers that opposed marriage equality in DC, and like others in that group appears to be an overcompensating closet case.

Twelve years ago I spoke to Fauntroy in the fellowship hall at Israel Baptist Church, and tried respectfully to convince him that the backers of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment with whom he allied himself were the same people Dr. King criticized in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and that he was dishonoring his old associate Bayard Rustin in the process. I might as well have chatted up the food on the buffet table.

For years Fauntroy was a fixture at ineffectual rallies for DC Statehood. Because of his background in the civil rights movement, few criticized him publicly. His homophobia was as out of date as his boasting of his closeness to Qadafi. He lived in the past for a long time, and had many enablers. Now his mental state is in question. He has become a sad footnote in the post-Benjamin Jealous era of cooperation between the civil rights and LGBT rights movements, in which many ministers are on the side of equality, as Dr. King's widow was.

March 11, 2015

Who Tells the History

(Washington Blade editorial cartoon by Ranslem)

My Blade column this week examines the state of justice in America fifty years after Selma. Here is an excerpt:

The Edmund Pettus Bridge gleamed in the afternoon light when President Obama spoke there on March 7 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Yet Transportation for America includes it on a map of America's 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. Completed in 1940, it is named for a former U.S. Senator who was a Confederate general and a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

The back side of a billboard welcoming Obama featured one from admirers of Klan founder and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest. Beneath an equestrian portrait of Forrest was the slogan, "Keep the skeer on 'em." Thus as we honor nonviolent resistance, others wax nostalgic about lynching.

Obama did not mention the Forrest billboard but did mention last week's Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department. He said that while the report shows that the fight for justice is not finished, America has made a lot of progress. He cited advances not only by African Americans but also by women and gay people. "To deny ... this hard-won progress ... would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better."

Obama tacitly rebuked the right wing's patriotic posturing by celebrating the reforming impulse: "It's the idea held by generations of citizens who believed ... that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo."

Read the whole thing here.

March 08, 2015

Saluting a brave and decent man

Selma director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo with Rep. John Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Filming on the bridge

Just as David Lean had to film Lawrence of Arabia in the desert, Ava DuVernay had to film her Blood Sunday scene on the real bridge.

March 07, 2015

"We are the gay Americans..."

Obama at the bridge

President Obama spoke today at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. A very fine moment.

A Call from Selma

This latest entry in NYT's "Op-Doc" series is by Andrew Beck Grace and features Rev. Clark Olsen remembering the day in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago when his colleague Rev. James Reeb was murdered for supporting voting rights. He notes with great emotion that at the time, the murder of young black activist Jimmie Lee Jackson got very little attention, while the murder of a white minister was so shocking that it helped President Johnson pass the Voting Rights Act.

Fifty years later, DOJ's Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department shows that we have still not overcome.

February 24, 2015

'Glory' sales surge after Oscar win

Billboard reports:

Common and John Legend's "Glory" is basking in the glow of its Academy Award win for best original song on Feb. 22, and is on course for big sales gains in the wake of the Oscars.

A small comfort for a film unjustly snubbed.

February 23, 2015

D.C. drag community mourns Mame Dennis

(Mame Dennis and Donn Culver at Pier 9. Photo by Rob Moore/Discomusic.com)

One of the longtime mainstays of Washington's drag community has died. Rest in peace.

February 19, 2015

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History

(Students protest proposed changes to U.S. history curriculum in Colorado. AP photo)

Think Progress reports:

An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.

The reason I don't advocate nuking Oklahoma for this is that history teaches us that it would be a terrible idea.

February 12, 2015

Getting Off Our High Horse


My latest column, now online at the Washington Blade, looks at the controversy over President Obama's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Here's an excerpt:

At its best, faith challenges us to reflect on how far our actions have strayed from the standards we profess. The Christian Right, by contrast, uses faith as a weapon against its political opponents. Its standard bearers cannot acknowledge crimes even nine centuries in the past. So forget the anti-Semitic Rhineland Massacres of 1096; the sack of Constantinople in 1204; the destruction of ancient libraries and art treasures; the hundreds of thousands who died from slaughter, famine, and disease before the Crusaders even reached the Holy Land. Do not mention the estimated 1.7 million deaths from the Crusades, or that the savagery was launched by Pope Urban II in 1095.

The denial is not only about the Middle Ages. Millions were caught up in the Middle Passage that brought slaves to the western hemisphere, and black men in America were being burned alive in public lynching festivals well into the twentieth century. People cut off parts of the victims for souvenirs. Innumerable photos of these horrors are a few clicks away.

We can talk about this. At bottom, that is the president's message. He does our country a service by raising it, though he knows his opponents are waiting to pounce on whatever he says. He can speak less guardedly with his last race and last midterm election behind him.

Read the whole thing.

February 10, 2015

American sins: history of lynchings in the South

February 06, 2015

Oh, the mockery!

Above, Mister Smith Media mocks NBC News anchor Brian Williams for his enhanced memories of being under fire in a war zone. The mockery continues on Twitter with hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers. Here is some coverage: