Willie Lieberman is a fourth-year student in the History honors program specializing in European Studies
Every October, countless individuals across the globe gather to celebrate love. LGBT History Month is a time for both joy and commemoration. It’s a time to toast to how far activism has come while remembering all the sacrifices made and struggles undergone to get to where we are now. Emory’s Rose Library is proud to honor LGBT History Month by sharing with you all some of our holdings.
Besides being home to an entire LGBT collection containing photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and more pieces of LGBT history since 1969, the Rose also has several notable novels and books in this realm. Richard Blanco is a Spanish-born, American-raised author and poet who has made a career by writing about his experiences as a gay Latino immigrant. He was the first of those classifications, and the youngest, to serve as a presidential inaugural poet. Besides this tremendous feat at the 2012 inauguration, Blanco has received countless accolades, like several honorary doctorates and a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellowship. In 2014, Blanco wrote his memoir, The Prince of Los Cocuyos: a Miami Childhood, about his fascinating life experiences and deep cultural heritage, and the Rose has Blanco’s personal copy.
The Rose also has a sizeable collection of mid-century lesbian pulp novels. These explicit books were often the only readily attainable literature about lesbian love because society widely viewed homosexuality as scandalous and sinful in mid-century America. To grab the attention of potential buyers, the covers were colorfully and brightly illustrated, often containing intriguing or shocking headlines. Some highlights of the collection are featured below.
Closer to home, the Rose contains the papers of two important Atlantan LGBT activists. Winston Johnson, who passed away just a few months ago in May 2021 at the age of 79, is one of the most influential activists from Georgia. He and his partner were two of the Human Rights Campaign’s founding committee members for the organization’s events in Atlanta. He forged a close friendship with Coretta Scott King en route to Martin Luther King JR’s funeral, and the two worked together for years as advocates and activists for intersectional issues in Atlanta and abroad. Edwin W. Stansell was Emory’s Assistant Dean during the 1990s when he was also a public LGBT rights activist. His papers include organizational records, photographs, posters, and other personal effects from his endeavors from 1984-1997. Atlanta has long been home to a deeply involved LGBT activist community, and the Rose is honored to hold the papers of these two extraordinary men.
While LGBT History Month is held in October, LGBT Pride Month is held in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots on June 28, 1969. Members of New York’s gay community joined to fight back against anti-gay police violence they had faced for years. Such a powerful demonstration and stance against systemic oppression was monumental for the gay liberation movement’s progress as they catalyzed the formation of several crucial LGBT organizations. The riots also catalyzed beautiful LGBT love stories that are told in a 10th-anniversary commemoration of the event that also tells stories of people who were at the event, showing that even in the darkest of times, the LGBT community lives authentically and proudly.