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Blog posts from across the Library related to LGBTQ history.

Research Guides

LGBTQ+ Studies: A Resource Guide

This research guide serves as an introduction into the excellent collection of LGBTQ+ resources available at the Library of Congress. In addition to high profile collections like the Frank Kameny Papers, the Library also owns a number of LGBTQ+ periodicals and primary source materials. The Library provides on-site access to a number of relevant databases and electronic resources in LGBTQ+ Studies as well.

LGBTQ+ Artists Represented in the Performing Arts Special Collections in the Library of Congress Music Division

The artistic community has always had many LGBTQ+ members, including musicians, dancers, choreographers, writers, directors, designers, and other creators. The Music Division holds a wealth of information about these LGBTQ+ artists in its performing arts special collections, which contain musical scores, correspondence, scripts, photographs and other documents of their lives and careers. This survey brings together some of the highlights from these holdings, providing an opportunity to learn more about LGBTQ+ creators and to recognize and celebrate their artistic achievements.

LGBTQ+ Resources in Business and the Workplace

A guide to sources of information for those researching the issues that affect the economic circumstances of the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ Resources in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress

This guide serves as an introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and other related (LGBTQ+) resources available in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Please note that this guide is not intended to be comprehensive, but is a curated list of related collections.

LGBTQ+ Sports and Recreation Research Guide

The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of material related to sports and recreation, both in historical and contemporary contexts. The Library collects materials in all formats, languages, and time periods that explore a broad range of subjects including works related to or about sports in general, specific sports or movements within sports, and specific athletes. These works generally class in GV but can be found scattered throughout the subject areas of the entire Library of Congress classification system.

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Arts and Sciences

Aaron Copland Collection

The Aaron Copland Collection consists of published and unpublished music by Copland and other composers, correspondence, writings, biographical material, datebooks, journals, professional papers including legal and financial material, photographs, awards, art work, and books. Of particular interest is the correspondence with Nadia Boulanger, which extend over 50 years, and with his long-time friend, Harold Clurman. Other significant correspondents are Leonard Bernstein, Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, Carlos Chávez, David Diamond, Roy Harris, Charles Ives, Claire Reis, Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions, and Virgil Thomsom. The photographic collection of Copland's friend and confidant Victor Kraft, a professional photographer, forms part of the collection. The collection occupies 306 linear ft. (564 boxes, ca. 400,000 items).

AIDS Memorial Quilt Records

Documentation of the work of The NAMES Project, the largest HIV/AIDS-related grassroots volunteer organization in the country and administrator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest folk art project in United States history. The collection includes correspondence, administrative records, printed material, photographs, and audiovisual material that document the creation, marketing, and exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Also included are records related directly to persons listed on the quilts, including correspondence, photographs, tributes, epitaphs, news clippings, and artifacts submitted by panel-makers to add context about the lives of the persons in the quilt. Digital assets of particular note are digital images of all ca. 6,000 quilt blocks and structured data containing detailed information about quilt creators, persons listed on quilts, and quilt attributes.

Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation Collection

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) was founded in 1958 by dancer/choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-1989). Ailey's goal was to form a company dedicated to enriching the heritage of American modern dance and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience. By the time of Ailey's death in 1989, AAADT had grown into a large multi-racial dance organization and one of the most respected and popular modern dance companies in the world. Ailey's signature works for the company include Blues Suite (1958), Revelations (1960), Streams (1970), The Lark Ascending (1972), Cry (1972), and Night Creature (1974). In 1989, Judith Jamison, Ailey's muse for more than 20 years, was named Artistic Director of the company. The collection contains Board of Trustees business papers, photographs, tour documents, Ailey II papers, awards, choreographic commissions, teaching notes, clippings, correspondence, costume designs, a diary, financial papers, posters, production elements, programs, publicity, Ailey School papers, special projects documentation, and moving image materials.

Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev

Serge Diaghilev had a profound influence on music, ballet and art in the 20th century. His musical interests, as demonstrated in this collection, spanned a range of styles; much of the material represents works considered by Diaghilev for the Ballet Russes and many bear annotations and performance indications. This collection, acquired by Serge Lifar, Diaghilev’s protégé, is rich in eighteenth-century Italian works, nineteenth-century Russian and French compositions, popular works from the early Soviet era, works for jazz band, and popular songs. In addition to printed music, the collection contains music manuscripts, correspondence, libretti and synopses, books and monographs, magazines, and Diaghilev’s personal notebook dating from 1926 until his death in 1929.

Carl Van Vechten Photographs

The Carl Van Vechten Photographs Collection at the Library of Congress consists of 1,395 photographs taken by American photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) between 1932 and 1964. The bulk of the collection consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including many figures from the Harlem Renaissance. The Prints and Photographs Online Collection (PPOC) includes links to a selected bibliography, a biography and a chronology in addition to his photographs. The collection of Van Vechten Photographs at the Library and his papers at Yale are an important resource to the study of LGBTQ culture.

Carol M. Highsmith Photographs

Photos from the 2012 San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Celebration, part of the Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project.

Cole Porter Collection

Cole Porter (1912-1957) was an American composer and songwriter for the musical theater. The collection primarily consists of music manuscripts, including holograph sketches and printed and manuscript piano-vocal scores, of Porter's music, mostly from his later works. Eighteen shows are represented, including film versions of stage works. Lyric sheets, correspondence, clippings, research, scripts, playbills and other miscellaneous items are also included. The collection contains 2,700 items.

David Diamond Archives

This collection documents the creative life of the American composer David Diamond (1915-2006). It contains manuscripts for nearly all of Diamond's compositions, correspondence with important musical and literary persons, daybooks and other autobiographical materials.

Free to Use and Reuse: LGBTQ+ Images

Portraits of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans represent people who made a difference in many careers and time periods. Unless otherwise noted, the images are from the Prints & Photographs Division. This page features items from the Library's digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.

Leonard Bernstein Collection

A composer of concert music and musical theater scores, a conductor, and a pioneer in the use of television in his role as music educator, Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) was among the most well-known and influential musical figures in the second half of the 20th century. As with most things related to Bernstein, his sexuality was a complicated aspect of his life. Whether or not it influenced his work as a musician is subject to debate, though setting Walt Whitman’s poem, “To What You Said” in Songfest (1977), and featuring a gay character in his opera A Quiet Place (1983), were considered both daring and revealing when they premiered. Often outspoken on political and social issues, Bernstein used his professional influence and passion to co-produce a benefit concert for the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the first Music for Life AIDS benefit (1987). In 1989, Bernstein declined a presidential medal of honor as a protest at the National Endowment of the Arts rescinding a grant for a gay-oriented AIDS art exhibit; and in 1990 he wrote the foreword to the book, The Vinyl Closet: Gays in the Music World. All considered brave actions at the time.

The Leonard Bernstein Collection in the Music Division of the Library is vast and varied. It is also a rich source for research in gay history. In 2011 the estate donated several hundred (previously sealed) letters to add to the Bernstein Collection that reveal many aspects of gay life, particularly during the 1940s – a secretive time when it was personally and professionally dangerous to document or acknowledge homosexuality. In addition to letters from various male lovers and friends, there are letters from therapists who worked with Bernstein as he struggled to face his sexuality, and letters from his wife discussing how they might deal with his homosexuality in their marriage. The collection also contains materials regarding the, then nascent, AIDS epidemic – research, commentaries, and business papers related to Bernstein’s participation in Aids awareness and fundraising events.

LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive

The LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive collects and preserves online content which documents LGBTQ+ history, scholarship, and culture in the United States and around the world. Sites include domestic and international non-profit organizations, journalism and news external link, creative works and expressions, historical records, and more. Collection priorities include primary sources, first-hand accounts, coverage of significant events, and essential artifacts of cultural memory. This collection seeks to illuminate LBGTQ+ voices, from margin to center.

Margaret Mead Papers

The Manuscript Reading Room of the Library of Congress maintains the collection of Margaret Mead Papers and the South Pacific Ethnographic Archives, which consists of over 530,000 items of personal, professional, and family papers. The corpus of notes and other field materials that Mead preserved are available to scholars interested in evaluating and building on her research.

Ned Rorem Collection

Ned Rorem, a composer and writer, was born in Richmond, Ind. on Oct. 23, 1923. In addition to his music, he is well known for his writings, having published a number of his diaries and collections of other writings.

Oliver Smith Collection - Scenic Designer

The Oliver Smith (1918-1994) Collection is one of the most important sets of documentation of American stage design in existence today. Smith’s creative powers as a production designer were at the heart of many of the best remembered stage productions in the history of the American theater. Smith set the stage for many of this country’s greatest musicals, including My Fair Lady, Paint Your Wagon, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Candide, Camelot, Hello, Dolly!, and Brigadoon.

Pride in the Library

This album of images on the Library of Congress Flickr account External of artists, writers, playwrights, photographers, musicians, composers, dancers and poets serves as an introduction to the rich and diverse stories of LGBTQ+ life found in Library of Congress collections.

Prints and Photographs Collections

The collections of the Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.

Researchers may browse lists of relevant subject terms such as Gay pride and Gay Rights, or search broadly across all collections/categories using a general keywords directly in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. The catalog provides access through group or item records to about 95% of the Division's holdings, including more than a million digital images as well as descriptions of material that can be consulted by visiting the Prints & Photographs Reading Room.

“Queer Eye” for the Library!

The cast of the Netflix series "Queer Eye" came to the Library for an on-stage conversation with Jonathan Capehart, the Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post columnist and MSNBC commentator. Read the blog post.

RENT Manuscripts in the Jonathan Larson Collection

RENT is one of the most prominent American musical theater works to address the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis on the LGBTQ community. Jonathan Larson (1960-1996) was an American composer, lyricist, playwright, and performer who wrote primarily for the musical theater. The collection contains materials relating to his musicals, musical revues, club acts, films and dance works, in particular Superbia, tick, tick…BOOM!, and RENT, his successful rock musical adaptation of La Bohème. These materials include manuscript and computer-generated music scores and sketches, lyric sheets and sketches, scripts, notes, research materials, correspondence, notes and sketches for designs, production materials, programs, and press materials. In addition, the collection contains personal writings and correspondence, class and workshop notes, business papers, photographs, and books containing Larson’s annotations.

Samuel Barber Manuscripts

The Library of Congress is the preeminent repository for manuscripts by American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981). His works have been performed in the historic Coolidge Auditorium countless times, the most significant performance being the premiere of Barber’s Hermit Songs, op. 29with soprano Leontyne Price and Barber himself at the piano. The song cycle was commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and the premiere performance took place on October 30, 1953, Coolidge’s birthday and the date of the annual Founder’s Day concert.

Civil Rights and Government

Bayard Rustin Papers

Bayard Rustin was an openly gay civil rights activist, social reformer, pacifist, AIDS activist and author. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. The papers of Bayard Rustin were presented to the Library of Congress between 1988 and 1994 as a bequest from Rustin via Walter Naegle, executor of Rustin's estate and his partner from 1977 until Rustin's death in 1987.

Frank Kameny Collection

Banned from federal employment in 1957 solely because he was a gay man, Franklin Edward Kameny became an “angry archivist.” Not only did the Harvard Ph.D. astronomer protest his firing from the U.S. Army Map Service, but he also became the central figure in confronting the federal government’s policies against the employment of gays and lesbians, particularly in positions linked to national security. Kameny collected thousands of pages of letters, government correspondence, testimony, photographs and other memorabilia. The Kameny Collection is perhaps the most complete record of the gay-rights movement in America.

The History of Pride: How Activists Fought to Create LGBTQ+ Pride

This story map provides a historical overview of annual LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations and the connections to Library of Congress collections.

LGBTQ Activism and Contributions--Classroom Materials

This primary source set for teachers provides photos, film footage, newspaper articles, interviews, and audio recordings from the Library's online collections that explore LGBTQ Americans' political activism and contributions to U.S. cultural life.

LGBTQ+ Politics and Political Candidates Web Archive

The LGBTQ+ Politics and Political Candidates Web Archive captures digital content related to LBGTQ+ political candidates and political issues and topics at various levels of government, with a focus on lesser-known local and state politics. This archive preserves a representative sample of what is being called "The Rainbow Wave," which refers to the previously unprecedented number of LGBTQ+ identified candidates openly running for office.

LGBTQ Rights Abroad – Global Legal Monitor, Law Library of Congress

Lilli Vincenz Papers

Gay rights activist, psychotherapist, and documentary film maker. Correspondence, journals, organizational files, speeches, writings, surveys and questionnaires, press clippings, printed matter, academic files, and other papers relating to Lilli Vincenz's life as a gay civil rights activist, her work to support and empower lesbians and gay men, and her documentation of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement.

Stonewall Uprising

Literature and Poetry

Comic Book, Web Comic and Graphic Novel Collections

The Library curates an expanding collection of digitized and born digital comic books and social media site archives, all of which contain content touching upon LGBTQ+ themes.

Gene Berry and Jeffrey Campbell Collection

The Library of Congress’ Rare Book and Special Collections Division began acquiring the Gene Berry and Jeffrey Campbell Collection in 2011. Berry and Campbell are local collectors who amassed a collection of modern first editions. These titles are fine examples of modern publishing, and most include a dust-jacket (if issued) and are signed and/or inscribed by the author. The collection now stands at 2,200 volumes and covers subjects of LGBTQ Writers, Women Writers, Modern Fiction, Poetry, and Gastronomy. The collection is uncataloged, but accessible through the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

The Importance of Being Oscar

A set of portraits of poet and playwright Oscar Wilde by photographer Napoleon Sarony taken during Wilde's 1882 North American tour. One of these photos was the focus of a landmark United States court case: Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, in which Sarony brought suit to stop the use of his photos in advertising cards without his permission.

James Ingram Merrill Collection

Merrill began writing poetry as a child. When Merrill was 16 years old, his father collected his poems and stories and published them under the title Jim’s Book. Merrill would go on to receive many awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1977) and the first Bobbitt Prize for Poetry (1990). His poetry falls into two distinct bodies: the lyric poetry of his early career and the epic narrative of occult communication supposedly obtained through a Ouija board. In addition to poetry, he also wrote essays, fiction, and plays. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division acquired this Merrill Collection in 2015. The collection contains an astonishing number of important association copies, including Merrill’s first five books inscribed to Kimon Friar, the Greek poet who was important in Merrill’s professional and personal life. Among those are Merrill’s rare first book, Jim’s Book (1942), and the dedication copy of his second and rarest book, The Black Swan (1946). In addition to the many dedication and presentation copies, the collection also contains many of his major works, broadsides, a small number of manuscripts, and photographs.

John Ashbery Collection

John Ashbery is recognized as one of the greatest 20th-century American poets. He has won nearly every major American award for poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Yale Younger Poets Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Griffin International Award, and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Ashbery’s first book, Some Trees (1956) won the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), considered by many to be Ashbery’s masterpiece, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and unprecedented triple-crown in the literary world. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division acquired this collection in 2015. The collection includes most of Ashbery’s first editions, along with presentation copies, advance reader review copies, broadsides, and a limited amount of manuscript material.

Kay Ryan, Former Poet Laureate

Kay Ryan has made extensive contributions to national efforts which promote poetry in the United States. She credits Carol Adair, her late partner of thirty years as a main reason for her enduring the rejections that often accompany the career of a poet. The two met while they were both teaching classes at San Quentin State Prison. The quality of Ryan’s poetry eventually lead to her appointment as a US Poet Laureate.

St. Mark’s Poetry Project Archive

The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church was founded in 1966 in the East Village of Manhattan by, among others, the poet and translator Paul Blackburn. It has been a crucial venue for new and experimental poetry for fifty years and has hosted thousands of readings and workshops, many featuring LGBTQ writers. The Library of Congress’ Rare Book and Special Collections Division acquired the archive in 2005, which includes correspondence, financial reports, publications, flyers, posters, photographs, and over 4,000 hours of audio and video recordings. The collection is uncataloged, but accessible through the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Stathis Orphanos Christopher Isherwood Collection

Isherwood was a prolific writer and is probably best known for his books, A Single Man, Christopher and His Kind, and The Berlin Stories. The Berlin Stories served as inspiration for the Broadway musical Cabaret. Orphanos and Isherwood met in 1967 and became fast friends. Over the years Isherwood gifted many first editions of his works to Orphanos, who then kept those, along with other memorabilia until 2014, when the Library of Congress acquired the collection. This collection includes 452 items. Of those, 377 items are signed and/or inscribed by Isherwood. of the 256 monographs, many include long, 1-3 page inscriptions to Orphanos, giving the reader special insight into the author’s thoughts.

Stonewall Book Awards

The first and most enduring award for LGBTQ books is the Stonewall Book Awards External , sponsored by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table. Since Isabel Miller's “Patience and Sarah” received the first award in 1971, many other books have been honored for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered experience.

Sylvester & Orphanos Archive

Ralph Sylvester and Stathis Orphanos produced 25 beautifully printed and bound editions of works by noted 20th-century authors, such as Christopher Isherwood, Graham Greene, Paul Bowles, Nadine Gordimer, Tennessee Williams, James Merrill, John Cheever, Margaret Drabble, John Updike, Reynolds Price, Gore Vidal, and many others. These are all authors whose works are collected in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The volumes themselves are works of art, with illustrations by noted designers and illustrators, and bound by master binders. The archive includes correspondence between the printers and authors, original type-written and hand-written manuscripts, author corrected proofs, and copies of the finished works. Most notable along the hand-written manuscripts is one by Graham Greene for his “A Quick Look Behind.” This collection complements and adds research value to the Sylvester & Orphanos Collection, which includes all 25 of their books, as well as other printers’ collections, including Goudy, Victor Hammer, Bruce Rogers, Claire Van Vliet, and Russell Maret. It also has value of documenting the operations of a small LGBTQ press.

Thomas Mallon Papers

The papers of Thomas Mallon (1951-) span the years 1880-2023, with the bulk of the material dating from 1969 to 2023. The collection documents Mallon’s entire writing career and his writing process, from outlines and research to drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. The collection also documents the business of being a writer through correspondence with agents and publishers, pitches, contracts, and other administrative files. Mallon’s personal life is well represented in the collection, primarily through his diaries and correspondence. Mallon wrote in his diaries daily from 1976 onwards, detailing everyday life, including his experience being part of the gay community in New York City at the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid to late 1980s.

Truman Capote Papers

The papers of Truman Capote (1924-1984) span the years 1947-1965 and consist chiefly of literary manuscripts. The collection contains notebooks, journals, drafts, and manuscripts of prose fiction, dramas (including screenplays), and other writings, both published and unpublished. Included are drafts of his novels Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and In Cold Blood, the musical play House of Flowers, the short story "A Christmas Memory," and a profile of Marlon Brando. The largest group of material relates to his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, an account of the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman crowdsourcing challenge

In honor of Pride Month, to start on Whitman’s birthday, May 31, and run through the month of June. Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892) is best known as a path-breaking poet and author of Leaves of Grass. He worked as a school teacher, printer, newspaper editor, journalist, and carpenter before becoming a civil servant and volunteer visitor in Union Army hospitals in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. As a freelance writer, Whitman penned a variety of poetry and prose, including essays, articles, reviews, fiction, and nonfiction for the periodical press, speeches, and autobiographical works. The Library of Congress holds the largest number of Walt Whitman materials in the world, including drafts, notes, fragments, letters, poetry, and prose in the Charles E. Feinberg collection of Walt Whitman Papers and other collections in the Manuscript Division.

By the People

  • The Thomas B. Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman
    The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman Papers consists of approximately 3,000 items (4,126 images) spanning the period 1842-1937, with most of the items dated from 1855, when Whitman first published the poem Leaves of Grass, to his death at age seventy-three in 1892.
  • The Feinberg-Whitman Collection
    The papers of poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection consist of approximately 28,000 items spanning from 1763 to 1985. The bulk of the items date from the 1840s through Whitman's death in 1892, and into the twentieth century. The collection of correspondence, literary manuscripts, books, proofs, and associated items represent periods of Whitman's life from his early time living in New York, middle-age in Washington, D.C., and the last phase of his life in Camden, New Jersey. The papers include primary documentation of Whitman's friends and family; his experience as a civil servant and hospital volunteer in Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War; his contributions as a lecturer and social commentator; and his decades-long career as a journalist, prose writer, literary and arts critic, and poet.
  • Walt Whitman Papers (Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection)
    This small collection of papers (about 150 items; 1,200 images) of poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) spans the years 1837-1957 with the bulk concentrated in the period 1840-1891. Included are examples of the poet’s original correspondence and literary manuscripts, photocopies and transcripts of similar Whitman material, and printed matter and miscellaneous items relating to Whitman.