Documenting the Fight

Documenting the Fight
Gay Activists Alliance street fair, 1971. Image via NYPL

Jim Owles, a resident of 186 Spring Street was the first openly-gay candidate for public office in New York City, here in front of a campaign banner in 1973. Image via NYPL.

In our continuing efforts to save 186 Spring Street in the South Village, we’ve highlighted the significant role the building played in the early LGBT rights movement.  In the immediate post-Stonewall era, 186 Spring Street was home to an array of critical figures of this era. From this house, they helped establish some of the most important organizations working to advance the cause of equality for the LGBT community.  We recently held a press conference to rally support from local elected officials and the community to try and get the Landmarks Preservation recognize this important history. Without proper recognition, we fear that much of the hard work and victories of these LGBT pioneers on the political and cultural landscape may become increasingly easy to forget.

An image from NYPL’s collection that shows the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s (NGLTF) exhibit at the 1978 annual meeting of American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Bruce Voeller, another resident of 186 Spring Street co-founded and was the first director of the NGLTF, the nation’s first national gay and lesbian advocacy organization

For many young people it is becoming more and more difficult to remember a time homosexuality was still classified as a mental disorder and gays and lesbians were denied the most basic rights.  Although there is much work to be done, the progress made over the last half-century is remarkable and should not be overlooked.

GVSHP’s website has a page that highlights the LGBT history of our neighborhoods that details the history of significant buildings and sites. Another great visual resource we’ve used in our research and that we wanted to point out today is the New York Public Library’s digital LGBT and HIV/AIDS Activist Collections. You can see all the images in the collection here. It is a remarkable trove of images, may of which feature our neighborhoods as backdrop.

The collections include:

Gay Activists Alliance street fair with Washington Square Village in the distance, 1971. Image via NYPL

A march up Sixth Avenue from the NYPL collection.

GAA Household Finance Corporation ‘zap’ in 1971. Image via NYPL.

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Drew
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Drew was GVSHP's Director of Administration until March 2015.

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