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An Unlikely Hero

Date: September 13, 2016

LGBT activist Frank Kameny is the subject of a Sept. 20 talk by Washington College visiting Patrick Henry Fellow David Carter, who is writing a biography on Kameny and his influence on the LGBT civil rights movement.

In 1957 Frank Kameny, an astronomer with a PhD from Harvard University, was fired from the Army Map Service for being homosexual. Four years later, Kameny started the Mattachine Society of Washington, the first organization that demanded full legal equality for homosexuals, a radical vision in the 1960s. On Tuesday, September 20, Kameny’s biographer, David Carter, will present a talk on the early fight for LGBT civil rights, examining Kameny’s influential role in the history of the movement. Cosponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the program is free and open to the public. The lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, Washington College.

David Carter is the Fall 2016 Patrick Henry Fellow at the Starr Center. A writer and historian of the LGBT civil rights movement, his most recent book, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, was the basis for the American Experience film “Stonewall Uprising,” which won a Peabody Award. Carter worked closely with the National Parks Conservation Association to have the Stonewall Uprising site declared a national monument. This past June, President Barack Obama issued the official proclamation adding Stonewall to the country’s national monuments, the first site to become a national monument or park because of its role in LGBT history.

Carter’s work includes editing a selection of the poet Allen Ginsberg’s interviews published after Ginsberg’s death as Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958–1996. Carter has served as a consultant on numerous exhibitions and documentaries and has appeared on national TV news programs on CNN, CBS, and Al-Jazeera. He has written for CNN, Time Magazine, the BBC, the Washington Blade, and the Gay and Lesbian Review.

During his fellowship with the Starr Center, Carter will work continue to research and write his biography of Kameny with the aid of Washington College student researchers. Placing Kameny in the long tradition of American protest movements, Carter says: “Frank Kameny’s arguments for lesbian and gay civil rights were founded on the basic principles of our democracy as articulated by its founders in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Moreover, Kameny was effective in large part because he wrote in the tradition of our nation’s greatest founders, combining passion, wit, and intelligence with great skill in argumentation and exposition. Kameny’s writing and rhetorical skills were matched by his courage, making him a worthy successor to men such as Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson.

About the Patrick Henry Fellowship:

Launched by the Starr Center in 2008, the Patrick Henry Fellowship aims to encourage reflection on the links between American history and contemporary culture, and to foster the literary art of historical writing. It is co-sponsored by the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Washington College’s center for literature and the literary arts. The Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship’s funding is permanently endowed by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with further support provided by the Starr Foundation, the Hodson Trust, and other donors. 

Last modified on Sep. 13th, 2016 at 11:52am by Jean Wortman.