Skip to main content

Visitphilly.com Official Visitor And Travel Site
MENU

Marking 50 Years of LGBT Activism
in Philadelphia

Exhibitions, re-enactments and events celebrating the gay civil rights movement

Philadelphia celebrates five decades of political progress with the 50th Anniversary of the Gay Rights Movement, including commemorative exhibitions at major institutions and a moving re-enactment of the original Fourth of July demonstration honor the milestone year, this year.

Now one of the country’s leading gay-friendly destinations, the City of Brotherly Love played a pivotal role in the earliest days of the American gay-rights movement. The first major U.S. protest for LGBT equality took place in front of Independence Hall on July 4, 1965. Coordinated by Philadelphia resident Barbara Gittings and Washingtonian Frank Kameny, now known as the mother and father of gay rights, the protest marked the first time activists from multiple cities openly identified themselves as gay and called for equality. The “Annual Reminder” protest took place every Independence Day for four years.

On June 28, 1969 — days before the last Annual Reminder — the Stonewall riots in New York City shook the LGBT community. Leaders who were influential in the Philadelphia protests focused their efforts on the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots and included the country’s first Gay Pride parade.

Here’s a look at Philadelphia’s yearlong 50th Anniversary of the Gay Rights Movement.


Ongoing Exhibitions

Everything is Going On Brilliantly: Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Through April 26, 2015
The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia hosts Everything Is Going on Brilliantly: Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia, an exhibition that focuses on Oscar Wilde’s connections to Philadelphia. Believed to be either homosexual or bisexual, Wilde gave a series of lectures throughout the area in 1882, and in many ways, he never left.

Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia

The National Museum of American Jewish History

April – August
The National Museum of American Jewish History will uncover Jewish stories in the movement for LGBT rights through a special installation. Public programs will focus on the Jewish LGBT experience in America. The museum also invites people to share their own Jewish LGBT stories through a Tumblr project.

National Museum of American Jewish History

Speaking Out for Equality: The Supreme Court, Gay Rights, and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center

June 5 – January 3, 2016
At the National Constitution Center, Speaking Out for Equality: The Supreme Court, Gay Rights, and the Constitution explores the gay-rights movement through the constitutional “conversations” that have framed the struggle for equality. Supreme Court cases and public discourse reflect the national mood at various points along the journey.

speaking out for equality

National Constitution Center

Speaking Out for Equality will address the Reminder Day demonstrations and explore the impact the demonstrations had on the gay-rights movement. (D. Cruz for Visit Philadelphia.)

En Blanco y Negro (In Black and White): A Gay-Latino Perspective at Taller Puertorriqueño

June 12 – July 25, 2015
The paintings and drawings of Philadelphia-born José Luis Cortes, one of the earliest out Puerto Rican artists, depict New York City’s gay scene. Taller Puertorriqueño mounts an exhibition of his works in En Blanco y Negro (In Black and White): A Gay-Latino Perspective. In conjunction, the Puerto Rican cultural center will host an artist residency program and workshops for Taller’s students working with youth from GALAEI, a local LGBTQ youth center. The accompanying panel discussion, entitled A Gay-Latino Perspective (June 20), features the voices of LGBT Latinos in Philadelphia and artist Jose Luis Cortes, who will explore his experiences of growing up in Philadelphia, working as an artist in New York City and now residing in Puerto Rico.

En Blanco y Negro

Legendary at The African American Museum

June 12 – August 16, 2015
Through the photographs of Gerard H. Gaskin, The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s Legendary captures the culture of “house balls.” These parties, popular in the African-American and Latino gay and transgender communities, allowed marginalized groups to embrace and showcase their most vibrant selves. Evidenced by the images, the “house balls” were full of artistry and self-fashioning.

Legendary

M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

This summer, explore the world of “house balls” via Gerard H. Gaskin’s photographs at The African American Museum. (Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.)

LGBTQ Library Activism at The Free Library of Philadelphia

June 22 – August 14, 2015
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ Library Activism exhibition emanates from the 1960s protests led by Barbara Gittings, founding coordinator of the American Library Association’s Gay Task Force. It will feature moments from her life including her first protest march at Independence Hall 50 years ago. Also on display: books and materials important in the life of the LGBTQ community from the pre-Stonewall era to today. The exhibit will be displayed in the Parkway Central Library’s West Corridor.

LGBTQ Library Activism

Independence Hall and the History of Gay Rights in Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor Center

June
Independence National Historical Park Rangers and LGBT volunteers present an annual program that explores the role of Independence Hall in historical movements for social change, including the Reminder Day demonstrations. Taking place at the Independence Visitor Center, this year’s Independence Hall and the History of Gay Rights in Philadelphia will highlight the significance of 1960s Reminder Day demonstrations in LGBT history — both for Philadelphia and the country.

the History of Gay Rights in Philadelphia

Independence Visitor Center

INHP’s annual program examines Independence Hall’s role in historical movements for social change, including the Reminder Day demonstrations. (G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia.)

Fighting Back: Defending the LGBT Mind and Body in Pennsylvania at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

October 18-19
This year’s annual symposium on LGBT regional history, Fighting Back: Defending the LGBT Mind and Body in Pennsylvania focuses on health activism and the LGBT community. At The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, speakers will examine the 1970s struggle to remove the mental illness stigma imposed by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as the contributions to the field made by Temple University psychiatrist John Fryer. They’ll also cover early AIDS history in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In conjunction, the William Way LGBT Community Center will host an exhibit examining the work of AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya.

Fighting Back: Defending the LGBT Mind and Body in Pennsylvania


Free Events Over Fourth of July Weekend

National Legal Panel and LGBT Party at the National Museum of American Jewish History

July 2
Nationally renowned legal experts will discuss the state of gay rights across the country as part of a National Legal Panel at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Later that night, the museum moves from serious to seriously fun for its LGBT Party.

National Legal Panel and LGBT Party

National Museum of American Jewish History

The state of gay rights will be explored as part of a National Legal Panel at The National Museum of American Jewish History on July 2. (G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia.)

National Politics Panel at Congress Hall

July 2
Political analysts take the stage for a National Politics Panel at Congress Hall, where Congress held its first sessions from 1790 to 1800.

National Politics Panel

National Interfaith Service at Christ Church

July 3
Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, will deliver a sermon during a National Interfaith Service at Christ Church, where George Washington and Betsy Ross once worshipped.

national interfaith service

Christ Church

The steeple of Christ Church, where a National Interfaith Service will take place on July 3, stands out among the buildings in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. (J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.)

Gay Pioneers

July 3
WHYY, the local NPR and PBS affiliate, will screen Gay Pioneers on July 3. The documentary about the Annual Reminders explains how the Philadelphia protests laid the groundwork for Stonewall in 1969. A sure-to-be-insightful discussion will follow.

Gay Pioneers

Live Nation 50th Anniversary Concert at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing

July 3
The Live Nation 50th Anniversary Concert goes down at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. Performers to be announced.

Live Nation 50th Anniversary Concert

Celebration of Freedom Ceremony and 50th Anniversary Ceremony

July 4
The annual Celebration of Freedom Ceremony at Independence Hall, part of the city’s Wawa Welcome America! Fourth of July bash, marks the nation’s birthday with music, speeches and readings from the Declaration of Independence. This year’s event will pay homage to the Reminder Day demonstrations. Later in the day, Equality Forum will host the official 50th Anniversary Ceremony, complete with a stirring re-enactment.

Wreath-laying Ceremony at Gay Rights Demonstrations Historical Marker

July 4
A wreath-laying ceremony will commemorate the protests at the Gay Rights Demonstrations Historical Marker, which was erected 10 years ago for the 40th anniversary of the first Reminder Day.

Reminder Block Party

The 50th anniversary of the first U.S. protest for LGBT equality will be commemorated this summer. (J. Smith for Visit Philadelphia.)

Annual Reminder Block Party

July 5
The Annual Reminder Block Party takes over Philadelphia’s famed Gayborhood. Vendors, food, music and plenty of pro-gay organizations will celebrate half a century of progress.

annual reminder block party

 


 

MUST-SEE PHILADELPHIA

Advertisement:
Advertisement:

By using this site, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

#visitphilly
Go To Top
SPECIAL HOTEL OFFER:
HIDE
EXPAND
Hotel Deal Alert: Get FREE PARKING when you book the Visit Philly Overnight Package!
See Package Details
PROMOTION INCLUDES
Free Hotel Parking
Free Tickets to Terracotta Warriors at The Franklin Institute
Free Admission and Ice Skate Rental at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
$25 Garces Restaurants Gift Card
Click here to book