On April 16, 1862, nine months before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that officially abolished slavery in the nation’s capital, freeing over 3,000 local enslaved persons in the process. Now known as Emancipation Day, the public holiday this year will also mark the day that the main community-based organization focused on the city’s history reopens its exhibit spaces.
The DC History Center, formerly known as the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and housed in the Carnegie Library along with the Global Flagship Apple Store, can now welcome back history buffs — provided they register in advance due to limited capacity — to check out its exhibits DC Hall of History, with selected displays of documents, maps, books, and other ephemera, and The Big Picture, highlighting select panoramic images recording milestones from the 20th century, several of which have been “blown up so large that you’ll feel like you’re a part of them.”
The DC History Center has also recently launched a “Spotlight on LGBTQ DC” series, partly organized by the all-volunteer Rainbow History Project. Among the early offerings in the series is a lengthy, engaging blog post reflecting on The ClubHouse, the important and influential Black LGBTQ nightclub and community space that existed from 1975 to 1990 in a large complex in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood.
Next week brings “Gay Is Good: Frank Kameny and the Fight for LGBTQ Rights,” an online Book Talk with historian Eric Cervini, whose 2020 The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America reportedly became the first LGBTQ history book to crack the New York Times Best Sellers list in 27 years.
Jane F. Levey, managing editor of Washington History, will lead a discussion of the book as well as the insights gained through research of several D.C.-based archives, including the extensive Frank Kameny Papers at the Library of Congress, chief among these the degree to which Kameny pioneered the concept of gay pride, taking inspiration from the legacy and tactics of the Black Freedom movement. Thursday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. Free with registration for Zoom link; signed, hardcover copies of The Deviant’s War also available for $43.04 including fees.
DC History Center is at 801 K St. NW. Hours for in-person visits are Fridays from 2 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Registration required for a free timed ticket. Call 202-516-1363 or visit www.dchistory.org.
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