James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Harvey Milk!

Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930 in Woodmere Long Island to middle-class, Jewish parents. He arrived in San Francisco in 1972, an era of massive gay and lesbian migration. Queers from all over the country were pouring into the city and, much like the way the freaks and hippies settled into the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, they were staking out territory in the mostly Irish, working-class neighborhood that was called Eureka Valley.

It was on Castro Street in this neighborhood that Milk opened his camera shop, Castro Camera in 1972.

Milk had made three unsuccesful runs for politcal office before eventually winning the job of supervisior of District 5 in 1977, becoming the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco history.

As a supervisor he fought for protection against discrimination in employment and housing for gay San Franciscans. He worked on legislation to protect the rights of workers, the elderly and minorities. Another focus of his 11 month supervisorial stint as was for the preservation of the character of San Francisco neighborhoods that were moving toward unbridled gentrification.

On November 27th, 1978 supervisor Dan White assasinated both Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone in their respective offices in city hall. Dan White was later sentenced to only seven years in prison, claiming that his judgement was impaired due to consumption of fast food. This "legal" theory became known as the "twinkie defense."

On the night of Dan White's sentencing, outraged, mostly queer, Californians burned police cars and rioted in protest of the verdict, an event that became known as the "White Night Riot."

The San Francisco Public Library holds two separate archival collections of Harvey Milk's papers and photographs and welcomes members of the public to come in and peruse these materials. To the right is a sample of a letter from Harvey Milk to Joe Campbell, dated 1961, lamenting the end of their relationship.

May 22nd, the day that would have been Milk's 80th birthday has been declared the first Harvey Milk Day. The Biblioqueers of the Queerest Library Ever salute him on his day and commemorate his pride and determination, his great contributions to both the LGBT movement, and the city of San Francisco and his relentless dedication to equality for all people.

No comments: