Picture Source

The Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s and the willingness of women, Native Americans, and Latinx people to standup for their rights, inspired gay Americans to launch their own movement.  While a small number of activists in the 1940s and the 1950s advocated for an end to discrimination, the movement blossomed in the late 1960s, especially in the wake of the famous Stonewall Inn riot of 1969 against New York City police harassment. This event marked a turning point as the struggle for gay rights moved from the margins to the mainstream.  In the ensuing decades, what was to become the LGBTQ movement fought for an end to police harassment, the elimination of sodomy laws, the right to marry, and an end to discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and other dimensions of life.  Activists also called gay men and women to “come out of the closet,” that is, to stop hiding one’s sexual orientation from family, friends, employers, and others.

The documents from the Gay Peoples Union of Milwaukee all date from the early 1970s and offer insights into gay conferences, political strategy, the battle for equal rights, religious struggles, police harassment, and popular media portrayal of gays.  Many other topics can be explored within the pages of the GPU News.  In addition, this “kit” includes five radio broadcasts, including the broadcast itself as well as a written transcription of the broadcast.  These radio shows focus on legal discriminations, the oppression of lesbians, and gay people and religion. –Prof. Robert Griswold

Please note: the links in these kits go to either a source on the web, an OU Libraries’ resource, requiring you to login with your OUNetID (4×4), or a companion Canvas page, requiring you to enroll here before you can access the document. The links open in a new window/tab. Report link problems to lscrivener@ou.edu.

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Gay Liberation Organization Manifesto.” Milwaukee, 1970. Eldon Murray Papers. Milwaukee Area Research Center. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.

“GPU News,” March 1972. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

“GPU News,” April 1972. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

“GPU News,” September 1972. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

“GPU News,” October 1972. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

“GPU News,” December 1972. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

“GPU News,” March 1973. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

“GPU News,” April 1973. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.

Murray, Eldon. “Sex Laws .” (Gay People’s Union Radio Program.) Milwaukee, Wisconsin: WZMF, March 14, 1971. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Division. (Sound recording.)

“Oppression of Lesbians.” (Gay People’s Union Radio Program.) Milwaukee, Wisconsin: WUWM, July 9, 1971. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division. (Sound recording.)

“Oral History Interview with Carol Stevens and Jai Brett,” August 11, 2007. Oral History Interviews of the Milwaukee LGBT History Project, 2003-2007. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.  (Sound recording)

“Religion and the Gay.” (Gay People’s Union Radio Program.) Milwaukee, Wisconsin: WUWM, December 9, 1971. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. Archives Division.  (Sound recording.)

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Escoffier, Jeffrey. “Fabulous Politics: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Movements, 1969-1999.” In The World the Sixties Made: Politics and Culture in Recent America, edited by Van Gosse and Richard R. Moser, 191–218. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003. (Companion Canvas page.)

Faderman, Lillian. “‘Not a Public Relations Movement’: Lesbian Revolutions in the 1960s through 70s.” In Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America, 188–214. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. (Companion Canvas page.)

Meeker, Martin. “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10, no. 1 (2001): 78–116.

White, Heather Rachelle. “Born Again at Stonewall.” In Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights, 138–70. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.  (Companion Canvas page.)