Item Spotlight: Jack Nichols Holding Picket Sign


(Jack Nichols holding picket sign at 1st protest at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, 1965. Find this photo and other historical artifacts in our online archives.)

Fifty years ago, on July 4, 1965, activists first convened in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to demand equality for lesbians and gays. This first of five “Annual Reminders” (1665-1969) was organized by Barbara Gittings  and Washington, D.C.’s own Frank Kameny. The forty protesters, including seven women and thirty-three men, came from Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C. A modest showing by modern standards, the First Annual Reminder was at its time the largest gay rights protest in world history (Source).

The photo depicts 27-year-old Jack Nichols, co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, marching in the first Annual Reminder. “15 Million U.S. Homosexuals,” declares his sign, “ask for equality / opportunity / dignity.”

This item, generously contributed by Jack Nichols, is part of our online collection Jack Nichols Photographs and Papers, 1955-2005.

Oral History Transcript: Dr. Bonnie Morris

You know, I read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was nine and various other classics of literature that talked about the awkward separate spheres for men and women. I know that I longed to go back in time and punch out anyone who said you can’t do this because you’re a girl and I always wondered why the girls in these stories didn’t stand up to authority and say this is bullshit.

- Bonnie Morris, as interviewed by Rebecca Day. Full transcript available on our online archives.

We are delighted to publicize the full transcript of Dr. Bonnie Morris’s recent oral history interview. Dr. Morris, a local writer and professor, provides a vivid personal and political narrative: from her birth on May 14, 1961 (the day on which “the Freedom Riders arrived in Birmingham, Alabama and were set on fire”) to present. Dr. Morris covers her early life experiences, her coming out, her education, her work, and her political and cultural involvement. The interview is a terrific example of the ways in which our oral history collection contributes color and texture to the history of our community.

Thanks to Rainbow History volunteer Rebecca Day for her terrific work collecting, transcribing and cataloging this interview, and to Dr. Morris for sharing her stories.

The audio file for this oral history, as well recordings of our 158 other digitized oral histories, are available upon request (


Rainbow History at the DC Public Library


(Rainbow History board member Vincent Slatt. Photo by Sarah Welz Geselowitz.)

On Tuesday, June 30th, the last day of Pride Month, the Rainbow History Project held a public information session at the Southeast Neighborhood Library. Board member Vincent Slatt discussed the history of the organization and our ongoing work, including our Community Pioneers programming, our online archives, our oral history program, and our Places & Spaces online map. Audience members were eager to share their questions, perspectives, and even some personal memories of LGBT spaces in the city.

We are eager to follow up with our audience members, several of whom expressed interest in sharing their own oral histories or volunteering with Rainbow History.


Upcoming Event: Oral History Training

Oral History Training

Tuesday, July 23 | 6 pm

DC Center for the LGBT Community | 2000 14th St NW #105

Are you interested in helping collect the history of D.C.’s LGBT community? Oral histories are a vital component of our collections, providing students and researchers with rich and nuanced accounts of LGBT life in the DC area. We have nearly 300 oral histories, but we want to have thousands. The process is quite simple: a volunteer with a digital sound recorder finds a convenient time to spend an hour or two or three with someone who has a story to tell.

On Thursday, July 23rd,at 6:00 pm, at the DC Center for the LGBT Community (2000 14th St NW #105), we will offer a training session for volunteers who would like to help us obtain oral histories. You will learn about the process, receive training materials, learn how to schedule an interview, and have an opportunity to ask questions. Everyone is welcome.

Board Member Bonnie Morris in the Washingtonian


(Screenshot of “What Happened to DC’s Lesbian Spaces?” [external link])

The Washingtonian (external link) recently featured Rainbow History board member Dr. Bonnie Morris in Harrison Smith’s article “What Happened to DC’s Lesbian Spaces?” (external link). In this terrific interview-style article, Dr. Morris discusses the swift disappearance of cultural spaces for lesbians in the D.C. area. She speculates on the causes of the disappearing lesbian spaces, including the growing role of online community, the integration of lesbians and gays into mainstream society, and the waning of the “feminist imperative.”  In the face of these factors, Dr. Morris also affirms the importance of maintaining physical spaces for the lesbian community:

Having discussions with people across the country—artists, musicians, activists—we all feel that having a place to go to is very important, say, when there’s a negative event, like a hate crime or a loss, or a celebration. Let’s say the Supreme Court affirms the right to marry; or there’s, say, the murder of Matthew Shepard. People could go to their gay bar or their gay bookstore and immediately start organizing. You can do that online, but being able to hug and cry, jump up and down and party—in a lot of ways, those spaces, although they weren’t maybe meant as “you have to be a progressive activist to come here,” they serve to bring people into the larger meeting of advocacy. I don’t want to say the “r” word, recruit. I mean that you would be moved to be more than just a party animal by encountering people that were there.

Dr. Morris, who teaches women’s studies at Georgetown and GW, has spoken up about this issue at Rainbow History’s recent public panel, Lost Lesbian Spaces, now available as an audio recording in our online collections. She is currently working on a book on the topic, entitled The Disappearing L.

Rainbow History in the Florida Agenda


(Screenshot of article “Gay Rugby Teams And Transvestite Dancing Queens At Capital Pride.” [external link].)

Rainbow History board member Jeff Donahoe was quoted in Linda Pentz’s recent article, “Gay Rugby Teams And Transvestite Dancing Queens At Capital Pride” (external link). Published in the Florida newspaper Agenda (external link), the article highlights the evolution of Capital Pride from a “small, self-contained celebration” in 1975 to this year’s “massive, raucous, diverse and inclusive affair”:

“Pride has always been a party,” said Jeff Donahoe of the Rainbow History Project, which collects and preserves LGBT history in metropolitan Washington, DC, and who led a tour of the Dupont Circle neighborhood on the morning of the parade. “But it used to be just one day. Now it’s a week.” And decidedly political. “You’ll see everyone in the parade from mayor to dog-catcher,” Donahoe added.

As Ms. Pentz’s article documents, it has been an exciting Pride for both Rainbow History and the community at large. We send out our warmest wishes for the last few days of Pride Month!

Item: Lost Lesbian Spaces Panel


Couldn’t make it to our June 16 panel Lost Lesbian Spaces? You can now find the full audio recording and accompanying images on our online archives.

This item is part of our collection Rainbow History Project Panel Discussions:

The Rainbow History Project hosts public panels and group discussions on a wide variety of topics. Each of these sessions is recorded and the tapes are available to researchers and members of the community. Some panels stream online through the catalog, others are only described and need to be requested. 

We invite you to explore this collection of old panels and stay posted for future events!

Item Spotlight: Davis Singing Stonewall Nation

(Listen here.)

In celebration of this morning’s Supreme Court ruling, which recognized same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, we invite you to listen to Madeline Davis’s 1971 gay liberation song, “Stonewall Nation,” as recorded on the local gay radio program Friends. 44 years ago, Davis first proclaimed through this song that “the Stonewall nation is gonna be free.” Today, although the LGBT+ community continues to face countless challenges, we are one step closer to being free.

This item is part of our collection Friends Radio Program Records, 1973-1982, contributed by Bruce Pennington.  Visit our online archives for more historical artifacts telling the stories of our community.

Stonewall Nation
I don’t want to see my brothers
Kicked into the dust no more
Their dreams all turned to rust no more
No more, no more.

I don’t want to see my sisters
Having to give in no more
Their loving called a sin no more
No more, no more.

And the Stonewall Nation’s
gonna have its liberation
Wait and see, just wait and see.

For together we can rise above it
We’re gonna be ourselves and love it
The Stonewall nation is gonna be free.

Come on brothers, march along
We’re all gonna sing our song
Right now, right now.

Sisters, take me by the hand.
We’re gonna build our promised land.
Right now, right now.

And the Stonewall Nation’s
Gonna have its liberation
Wait and see, just wait and see.

You can take your tolerance and stow it
We’re gonna be ourselves and show it
The Stonewall Nation is gonna be free.

Documentary: “Uniquely Nasty”



Earlier this week, Yahoo News released a 30-minute online documentary entitled “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays.” Based on research by the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C., the film explores the federal persecution of gays and lesbians since the Cold War. Its three chapters tell the stories of a disillusioned gay Republican campaigner in the early 2000s, a senator’s son arrested for homosexual activity in the 1950s, and a low-level federal employee fired for homosexuality in the 1970s. The documentary – and the original documents also released on the website – expose a dark and widely forgotten chapter in U.S. history.

Online Exhibit: Gay is Good



Looking for a crash course in the history of local gay and lesbian organizing? We invite you to explore our new online exhibit “‘Gay is Good’: Gay and Lesbian Organizing in DC, 1961-1975″:

“Gay is Good”: DC-based gay rights activist Dr. Franklin Kameny coined this slogan in the 1960s to convince gay people of their dignity and self-worth. As co-founder and leader of the Mattachine Society of Washington, Kameny played a role in dismantling anti-gay federal policies, including those that barred homosexuals from federal employment. Kameny and his fellow activists also challenged the American Psychiatric Association for pathologizing homosexuality. This exhibit explores gay and lesbian organizing in DC, 1961-1971, in its historical and political context.