African Americans who are part of LGBTQ+ history have made enormous achievements and contributions to global history and culture. From literature and the performing arts to religion, politics, and activism, members of black gay communities have changed the way the world thinks about democracy and what it means to be an American. 

The LGBTQ+ objects and archival collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture focus on the familiar, untold, and unknown stories that have shaped the nation’s past. With the goal of promoting greater understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and contributions, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is exploring new ways of helping visitors reinterpret artifacts and the lives of people who have changed the course of history.  

Dedicated to being a resource for dialog and shared knowledge, the Museum collects, preserves, and provides access to objects that reveal the significant histories of LGBTQ+ communities. We’ve created this online portal to give greater access to stories we want to share with the world.

Welcome to the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s LGBTQ+ collection online.

Untitled, August 25, 2015. Photograph of trans-rights protestors during a Black Lives Matter protest by photographer Devin Allen. 

Gift of Devin Allen, © Devin Allen

SEARCHING ONLINE RECORDS

To find artifacts related to LGBTQ+ histories and themes throughout our collection, we recommend the following: 

  • To explore objects directly related to LGBTQ+ communities and histories, search using the term LGBTQ+ 
  • To explore objects related to diverse representations of sexual orientation and sexuality, search using the term SEXUALITY
  • To explore objects related to issues of gender and gender representation, search using the term GENDER
  • To explore objects related to the theme of identity, search using the term IDENTITY

Gerard H. Gaskin Collection

This series of images from the photographer Gerard H. Gaskin chronicle the culture of the house ballroom scene. Balls are underground gay and trans events where mostly African American and Latinx men from groups known as “houses” compete, or “walk,” to win categories with creative individualistic displays of fashion, attitude, posing, dancing, and “realness.” Taken at events in the New York City area, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Washington, DC, these photographs are a collaboration between Gaskin, a camera-laden outsider who has been attending balls for twenty years, and the house members who let him enter their intimate world of ball culture.

Tez and Marquise, Evisu Ball

Manhattan, NY, October 2010
View Object about Tez and Marquise, Evisu Ball

Joseph & Charles, Walking the Labels Category, POCC Ball

Webster Hall, Manhattan, NY, 2007
View Object about Joseph & Charles, Walking the Labels Category, POCC Ball

Brenda, Miss Black Trans New York 2017

Manhattan, NY, 2017
View Object about Brenda, Miss Black Trans New York 2017

Gerard, Eric Bazaar Ball

Manhattan, NY, 1998
View Object about Gerard, Eric Bazaar Ball

Martez, Evisu Ball

National Black Theatre Harlem, NY, 2005
View Object about Martez, Evisu Ball
A color photographic slide of activist Phil Wilson standing in front of a podium, speaking into a microphone.

Posing for LGBTQ+ History

The Ron Simmons Photography Collection contains several hundred color slides, most of which are related to American Politics, Literature, and LGBTQ+ activism. These photographs are an ever-present reminder of the valiant efforts of those who laid the foundation for LGBTQ+ liberation.

View Story about Posing for LGBTQ+ History

LGBTQ+ INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS

The NMAAHC collection holds objects relating to individuals and organizations representing diverse LGBTQ+ identities and communities. The list below contains a selection of such individuals from within our online collection. This list will continue to expand as we add more materials online. Click on a name to learn more about the person and explore related objects.

CATALOGING NOTES

The collecting, processing, and cataloging of LGBTQ+ objects is an ongoing process. This page will be updated as more objects are added to the online collection. Please contact us at NMAAHCDigiTeam@si.edu with any corrections, additional information, or feedback.

Top image: Photographic slide of gay pride flag banner at a New York City Gay Pride March, 1980s. Photograph by Ron Simmons. Gift of Ron Simmons, © Ron Simmons. TA2019.38.1.1.1.4
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