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October 6, 2006

Library of Congress Acquires Papers of Gay Rights Pioneer Frank Kameny

In a ceremony today held at the Library of Congress, the nation’s library accepted more than 70,000 letters, documents and memorabilia comprising the personal papers of Franklin Edward Kameny, pioneering crusader for gay rights. The Kameny papers, to be housed in the Library’s Manuscript Division, trace the gay equality movement in the United States through Kameny’s life and activism.

“The Kameny Papers document the evolution of the gay rights movement from its origins in the 1950s through the 1990s,” said John Haynes, 20th century political historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division. “Franklin Kameny’s papers are a rich and valuable resource for researchers seeking to understand the movement, its evolution into a significant social and political force and its impact on American life.”

Kameny was the central figure in confronting the federal government’s policies against employment of homosexuals, particularly in positions linked to national security. The collection includes black-and-white photographs of gay men and women picketing the White House in the 1960s; a letter from the State Department to Kameny (1960) confirming that the department “does not hire homosexuals and does not permit their employment”; testimony by Kameny in defense of numerous individuals denied security clearances and fired from their government jobs; documents tracing the formation and advocacy of the Mattachine Society of Washington, a gay rights organization; and documents from the American Psychiatric Association and the fight to “de-list” homosexuality as a mental illness. The papers also document debates within the gay rights movement over appropriate tactics and Kameny’s own role as a leading strategist.

A self-described “pack rat,” Kameny collected thousands of pages of letters, government correspondence, testimony, photographs and other memorabilia. Housed in Kameny’s attic for the past 46 years, the collection is perhaps the most complete record of the gay rights movement in America. Selected items can be viewed at

Kameny’s collection of rare protest and picket signs carried in front of the White House in 1965 – and color slides documenting this demonstration – will be made part of the political collections of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Kameny papers will join the Manuscript Division’s holdings of nearly 60 million items, including more than 15,000 collections of personal papers that document the course of American history from its colonial origins to the present and encompass all aspects of American life such as politics, civic reform, war, diplomacy, national security, exploration, science and literature.

The gift of the Kameny papers was made possible by the Kameny Papers Project, Charles Francis, former member of Congress Michael Huffington and other Kameny Papers Project contributors who purchased the papers and donated them to the Library.

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PR 06-185
ISSN 0731-3527

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