December 21, 2015: The Project thanks everyone for their friendship and support this past year. We enjoy the spirit of Christmas throughout the year as we receive rare artifacts that tell the stories of St. Louis' LGBT pioneers. We wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.
October 26, 2015: The St. Louis LGBT History Project (Project) has announced a new archival partnership with the Department of Special Collections, University Archives, Washington University Libraries (WUSTL).
Through the partnership, the Project will work with WUSTL to preserve LGBT artifacts and offer educational programming with a focus on highlighting the pivotal role WUSTL faculty, alumni, and students have played in LGBT life since the 1800s.
The University served as the location of St. Louis’ first LGBT “pride rally” in 1980, with many WUSTL students and faculty participating. Famous gay playwright Tennessee Williams attended the University in the mid 1930s, and groundbreaking medical and sociological LGBT-related research has been conducted by WUSTL faculty.
WUSTL University Librarian, Jeffrey Trzeciak says of this partnership, “the Libraries are excited to be a part of the St. Louis LGBT History Project’s collaboration with local libraries and cultural heritage institutions. As a research institution, we are happy to join this collective in order to create opportunities for the larger community to better understand the LGBT experience in St. Louis and at Washington University.”
Project Founder, Steven Brawley says, “the addition of WUSTL to our already dynamic archival and programming partnerships with the Missouri History Museum and the State Historical Society of Missouri will ensure that our community’s treasured and rare LGBT artifacts will be preserved for future generations.”
The Project was founded in 2007 with a mission to preserve and promote St. Louis’ gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history. Learn more at www.stlouislgbthistory.com.
For more information about LGBT resources at WUSTL go to http://libguides.wustl.edu/LGBT-archive
October 4, 2015: The Project has several events planned to commemorate LGBT History Month - which was proudly founded in St. Louis through the leadership of local educator Rodney Wilson.
October 24 Walking Tour: The Queer History of St. Louis's Central West End, 10 am - 1 pm, Central West End.
To celebrate LGBT History Month, join the Project on a guided walking tour of St. Louis's Central West End neighborhood. For decades, the Central West End was a regionally important hub of queer community life and political activism.
Featured places include the boyhood homes of T.S. Eliot and Tennessee Williams; the sites of St. Louis's first gay community center, Herbies' disco, and the Masters and Johnson Institute; and one of the Forest Park "tearooms" studied by pioneering sociologist Laud Humphreys.
This walking tour will last approximately two hours, so a bit of physical stamina is required. It will also take place outdoors, so comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothing are recommended. Think of this as a sort of leisurely "urban hike." In case of inclement weather, the tour will be canceled and rescheduled.
In October 1994, Rodney Wilson, a teacher at Mehlville High School, founded the now annual nationwide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month, choosing the month of October to coincide with National Coming Out Day and commemorate the first LGBT march on Washington in 1979. Join Wilson and Steven Brawley, founder of the St. Louis LGBT History Project, for this discussion that explores LGBT history in St. Louis and the story of LGBT History Month.
By Ian Darnell
September 10, 2015: In August, the St. Louis LGBT History Project obtained historical records that officially document police raids on local gay bars. More than sixty years old, these previously unstudied sources offer a fascinating glimpse of gay nightlife in the 1950s. The records also shed light on the changing relationship between queer people and St. Louis's police.
It's not news that in decades past the police sometimes raided St. Louis's lesbian and gay bars. Older members of the local LGBT community have long told stories about these incidents. Up until now, however, the Project had been unable to locate any written records of these raids. Uncovering these documents was the result of many hours of detective work in several local archival collections, culminating with a Sunshine Law request to the Records Division of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The records consist of three related police reports dated August 27, 1954. They detail a series of coordinated and apparently simultaneous raids conducted around midnight on three downtown bars. Two of these bars, the Entre Nous and Uncle John's, were located across the street from one another on the 600 block of Pine Street (parking garages now occupy the sites of both bars). The third bar, Al's, was located nearby at 115 North 9th Street (now on the site of AT&T Center skyscraper). We know that several other lesbian and gay bars were in operation in the St. Louis area at the time, but these do not seem to have been raided that night.
About one dozen law enforcement officials participated. The reports indicate that the police raided the bars because they "had received numerous complaints that homosexuals were frequenting [them]." It was against state liquor regulations for bar owners to allow "immoral persons to loiter on the premises" of their establishments. This provision effectively made it illegal to run a lesbian or gay bar. At the time, it was also illegal to have sex with a person of the same sex or to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex.
According to the reports, twenty-one people were arrested and taken to the district police station for questioning. These included the bartender at Al's and a man who played piano for customers at Uncle John's. In the reports, everyone who was arrested is listed as male. However, it is possible that some of the people arrested during the raids might not have been male, but instead were what we would think of today as trans women or genderqueers. We do know that some of the bars' customers wore makeup and had long, bleached-blond hair.