Monday, July 04, 2016

'The Annual Reminder', An Early Gay Rights Protest Held Every 4th of July

Craig Rodwell, one of the earliest American gay rights activists, came up with the idea to have Annual Reminders on July 4 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Thirty-nine people attended the first demonstration in 1965. The message was simple and direct, it was a reminder that Gays and Lesbians in America did not have the basic civil rights protections like their straight counterparts.

Veteran activists such as Frank Kameny, Kay Tobin and Barbara Gittings were among the group of protesters. Many of the brave men and women on the picket line were members of early Gay & Lesbian rights groups such as the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society and Philadelphia's Janus Society.

Interestingly, the last Annual Reminder was held a few days after the 1969 Stonewall Riots and once the riots happened the organizers regrouped to create the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which was held on June 28, 1970, to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It's these early gay rights protests that inspired the Pride celebrations we now have all over the world.

National Park Service ranger, Michael Doveton works at Independence Hall in Philadelphia and in a recent interview with The Washington Post he shared how it bothered him that Annual Reminder was never included in the tour. Knowing the importance of history Doveton took it upon himself to start talking about the Annual Reminder with the general public four years ago during Philadelphia's Pride Week.

Washington Post reports:
For decades, visitors to Independence Hall in Philadelphia were told one main story: This was where the country’s Founding Fathers enshrined Americans’ inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 
But now, an additional human rights story is being told at the symbolic birthplace of the United States: that of Reminder Days, one of the earliest public protests against LGBT discrimination. 
Tour guides talk about the primly dressed demonstrators who marched past the Liberty Bell on July 4 for five years in the 1960s, reminding the public that gay people lacked basic rights. In the visitors’ center, there are lectures and a slide show about the protests. And a state-installed marker outside the hall notes that the demonstrations helped transform a local campaign into a new civil rights movement. 
Michael Doveton, a National Park Service ranger at Independence Hall for seven years, said it bothered him that no one ever mentioned Reminder Days. So during the city’s Pride Week celebration four years ago, he started talking about the protests. That led to an exhibit in 2015 that included replicas of some of the signs the marchers carried and a discussion about the difficulties gay people faced during the 1950s and ’60s — including the threat of unemployment under an order signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower requiring the government to terminate anyone it considered a “sexual pervert.” 
The story of America’s oppression of gay people “is a story that hasn’t been told that needs to be told,” Doveton said. READ MORE
Thank-you Michael Doveton for stepping up and making a difference!