Today is Martin Luther King Day–an appropriate time to think about civil rights and the importance of remembering our history, not just for African-Americans, but for all of us.
It is profoundly depressing to initiate a discussion with undergraduate students and discover that they know very little about American history and government. It’s particularly galling when–as happened again just last week– African-American students look at me blankly when I ask what the 13th Amendment did, and then proceed to demonstrate only the foggiest familiarity with the civil rights movement.
There is a lesson here for the gay community: while the community embraces the sea change in attitudes toward LGBT folks (even in Indiana, Mike Delph and Scott Schneider notwithstanding), that change should not mean losing touch with a rich, albeit difficult, history.
Fortunately, the Indiana Historical Society understands the need to document and safeguard that history. The Society has launched The Indiana LGBT Collecting Initiative, to “collect, preserve and make accessible archival material that documents the rich history, tradition and culture of the gay community in Indiana.”
The first phase of this initiative is an Oral History Project; local photographer Mark Lee has been videotaping interviews with various individuals who have been part of the struggle to achieve equality for LGBT Hoosiers. Those interviews are being transcribed, digitized and made available as part of the collection.
The Historical Society is also looking for all sorts of “archival” materials: books, magazines, letters, photographs–anything that will help document and preserve the history of gay people in Indiana.
If anyone reading this blog post has such items, I encourage you to send them to the Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio Street, 46202, attention Eric Mundell. And tell a friend.
I think it was Santayana who warned that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.