LGBTQ+ Objects in the NMAAHC Collection

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.

The printed poster has a white background with [DEFY / WITH / DIGNITY]. “DEFY” is in blue with a yellow center in the “E” in the logo of the Human Rights Campaign. "DIGNITY" is in black with multi-colored accents.

Human Rights Campaign poster from the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

2017.85.6

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
A crowd of protesters with signs stating "Justice for Trans People."

Untitled, August 25, 2015. 

Photograph of trans-rights protestors during a Black Lives Matter protest by photographer Devin Allen. 

2016.98.17

Gift of Devin Allen, © Devin Allen

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHT

In June 2019, Dr. Ron Simmons donated a collection of objects from his personal archives, including several hundred color slides, most of which are related to American Politics, Literature, and LGBTQ activism. In addition to being an early LGBTQ activist, going back to the 1970s, Dr. Simmons taught communications at Howard University. He also photographed the iconic poster image of Marlon Riggs and Essex Hemphill for the film Tongues Untied. For a quarter of a century, Simmons worked for Us Helping US, a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to reducing HIV rates among black gay and bi men and pursuing a holistic approach to treating those who are HIV-positive.”

The collection is currently undergoing processing, but a selection of slides are available for viewing here: The Ron Simmons Photography Collection

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.