New National Park Service Theme Study Interprets, Commemorates Sites Related to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer History
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell Tuesday joined National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Tim Gill, philanthropist and founder of the Gill Foundation to announce the release of a new National Park Service theme study identifying places and events associated with the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified Americans. The release of the theme study coincides with National Coming Out Day, a commemoration first celebrated in 1988 on the anniversary of the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
“LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History” is the first of its kind study conducted by a national government to chronicle historical places, documents, people and events that shaped the LGBTQ civil rights movement in America. The National Park Service (NPS) coordinated the study with support from the National Park Foundation and funding from the Gill Foundation as part of a broader initiative under the Obama Administration to ensure that the NPS reflects and tells a more complete story of the people and events responsible for building America.
“For far too long, the struggles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified Americans have been ignored in the traditional narratives of our nation’s history,” said Secretary Jewell. “This theme study is the first of its kind by any national government to identify this part of our shared history, and it will result in an important step forward in reversing the current underrepresentation of stories and places associated to the LGBTQ community in the complex and diverse story of America.”
The theme study is a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ community as it establishes, for the first time, a framework for inclusion and recognition of places associated with people and events that made LGBTQ history and left a mark on American history. The theme study provides the big picture that will help these important places to be considered for designation as National Historic Landmarks or nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. It will also guide and inform the presentation of LGBTQ history by professors and teachers, and will serve as a reference for the general public.
“In 2016 the National Park Service is marking our centennial anniversary and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act on October 15 with a renewed commitment to share a more complete history of our nation with the next generation of Americans,” said Jarvis. “Through heritage initiatives like the LGBTQ theme study, the National Park Service is commemorating the inspiring stories of minorities and women who have made significant contributions to our nation’s history and culture.”
Secretary Jewell announced plans for the theme study in 2014 at an event outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City alongside National Park Service leadership and Gill.
Experts in LGBTQ studies wrote and peer-edited over 1,200 pages in the 32 chapters of the theme study. These chapters chart LGBTQ histories across the United States— from the native māhū of Hawai’i and lhamana of the Zuni, to the drag queens of the Stonewall Uprising, from private residences, hotels, bars, and government agencies to hospitals, parks, and community centers. Authors and peer reviewers included professors, filmmakers, historians, geographers, archivists and museum curators, researchers, experts in historic preservation, historical archaeologists, journalists, and members of the clergy.
“LGBT history is American history and as we celebrate the Centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, I can think of no better time to advocate for a more accurate and inclusive view of the American experience,” said Gill.
“Thanks to the generous support of Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation, this important study was possible,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. “This work helps expand the scope of the history preserved within our National Park System and honor an America that represents us all.”
Earlier this year Secretary Jewell and Jarvis returned to New York City to participate in a public dedication ceremony following President Obama’s designation of the Stonewall National Monument, the nation’s first monument to honor the story of LGBTQ Americans, on June 24, 2016.
In addition to the Stonewall National Monument, the Obama Administration recognized the Henry Gerber House in Chicago as a National Historic Landmark, and designated eight other LGBTQ sites on the National Register of Historic Places. These include:
- The Furies Collective House in Washington, D.C. – May 2, 2016
- Edificio Comunidad de Orgullo Gay de Puerto Rico (commonly known as Casa Orgullo or Pride House) in San Juan, Puerto Rico – May 1, 2016
- Julius’ Bar in New York, NY – April 20, 2016
- Bayard Rustin Residence in New York, NY – March 8, 2016
- Cherry Grove Community House & Theater in Cherry Grove, NY – June 4, 2014
- Carrington House in Fire Island Pines, NY – January 8, 2014
- James Merrill House in Stonington, CT – August 28, 2013
- Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence in Washington, DC – November 2, 2011
In 2010, the National Historic Landmark Program began actively looking for sites associated with LGBTQ history that may have the potential to be designated as NHLs or listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Owner approval for these sites is necessary before nominations can be prepared and the NHL Program has begun working with the LGBTQ community to encourage both outreach to owners and the completion of nominations for these properties.
The LGBTQ Theme Study is one of four such studies either recently completed or underway by the National Park Service. Other studies have examined or are studying the contributions of women, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Previous studies on African-Americans and American Indians were completed in 2003 and 1990, respectively.