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Marc Stein Examines LGBTQ History through Academic and Community Lenses

Marc Stein’s new book “Queer Public History: Essays on Scholarly Activism” is a collection of essays that range in topic, including LGBTQ activism in Philadelphia like the Dewey’s Sit-In, the Annual Reminders demonstrations in the 1960s and Kiyoshi Kuramiya’s role in the formation of the Gay Liberation movement in Philly; early and landmark LGBTQ court cases, the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and essays on theories about the Stonewall riots.  

In 2000, Stein published the book “City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia 1945-1972,” based on his 1994 dissertation. “I think people who know my earlier book will see some further reflections on Philadelphia history,” Stein said of his new release. “But I think for people who aren’t familiar with that earlier book, my hope is that it captures some of the more significant episodes that I had uncovered in that earlier research.” Through “Queer Pubilc History,” Stein explores the interconnectivity of academic historians and community-based historians, as well as the correlation between LGBTQ historians’ involvement in public domains and the public’s role in influencing queer history. 

Why did you write this book?

I guess over the last few years I’ve begun to reflect on my more than three decades of work as a queer historian. I had long been committed to writing not only scholarly work for academic publishers and for professional specialists, but also for larger public audiences. I was really interested in thinking more deeply about the trajectory of over the last several decades in the two areas covered by the book. One is really about the activists’ struggles that were necessary to make a place in queer history within higher education. And the other was how those of us who do queer history have worked, some of us in community-based contexts and some of us in academic contexts to change the public discussion about queer history. There’s been such a dramatic change over the last few decades and there are also great signs of trouble. I thought putting together a collection of my work and then reflecting on the development of the field over my 30 years of engagement would be interesting for me and hopefully interesting for readers.

Is there anything that you came across in your research on Philadelphia LGBTQ activism that surprised you?

My first major project in queer history was my book on Philadelphia, LGBT history from the 1940s to the 1970s. While I was producing this book for a university press, I was also routinely looking for opportunities to share what I was learning in places like PGN and eventually in more mainstream media venues.

There’s been a lot that’s been surprising. I think my work has really documented a more sexually radical pre-Stonewall tradition of activism exemplified by Drum Magazine. I’m really proud of the way that my work uncovered early episodes of trans activism, including the sit-in at Dewey’s. I’m proud of having brought to greater public attention stories of people of color in the movement such as Kiyoshi Kuromiya and Anita Cornwell, and both are covered in the book. Those are some of the things that were reflected both in my 2000 book and my 1994 dissertation that are kind of recaptured in this collection.

Read entire article at Philadelphia Gay News