Mark Segal donates LGBT archives to Smithsonian

PGN publisher Mark Segal has donated nearly 50 years of historical LGBT artifacts and memorabilia to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The collection, nearly two years in the making, documents Segal’s LGBT activism from Stonewall to today. Segal donated his personal papers to the Smithsonian on May 17 — approximately 17 cubic feet of journals, fliers, posters, letters and materials that chronicle political developments that cover the 1970s to the present.

Segal also donated artifacts from his personal collection, including the first state-issued Gay Pride Proclamation in 1975, a donation can he used during the 1970 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day march and his marshal’s badge from that event.

“The significance of my work never really hit me until the ceremony. It’s amazing to know that my stuff is going to be near [Dorothy’s] ruby-red slippers,” Segal said at the donation ceremony May 17.

The collection will be displayed in the Archives Center.  

Katherine Ott, the Smithsonian curator in charge of sorting and gathering Segal’s personal collection, said that few activists have played a part in both cultural and political areas of American history. Ott, who identifies as queer, said the materials Segal is donating are an insider’s guide to most of the big LGBT issues of the past 50 years. Materials from the National Museum of American History’s LGBTQ collections date back to the 19th century.

“It’s far easier to collect and talk about LGBT issues than it was even five or six years ago. This is almost the first opportunity to do this publicly because [the Smithsonian] has been doing it under the radar for decades and now we can do it more openly,” Ott said.

Franklin Robinson, archivist for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, said that Segal’s collection is a key component to filling in the missing pieces of the earlier stages of the LGBT struggle.

“This collection fills a huge gap in our civil-rights collection in telling the story of LGBT individuals into the modern era,” Robinson said.
Democratic Senator of Pennsylvania Bob Casey helped to introduce Segal during the donation ceremony. The two became close friends after years of working together to fight for gay rights. Sen. Casey was instrumental in co-sponsoring the Hate Crimes Prevention Bill, a bill that would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include and protect LGBTQ people. Segal, along with other prominent members of the LGBT community in Philadelphia, sat in on a roundtable discussion hosted by Sen. Casey in 2016 where he discussed the bill, which has not his support of the Equality Act and anti-bullying legislation.

“This is a celebration of a great American story. It’s a story of struggle, but it’s also a story of triumph. It’s a celebration of tolerance and acceptance. We still have miles to travel — but there will be a continuing inspiration that [his] work will provide.”
David Cohen, senior executive vice president of Comcast, introduced Segal by recalling that the two have been working together since the 1980s. Cohen spoke of how Segal’s influence changed the news coverage of the LGBT community on television, telling the story of how Segal and the Gay Raiders — a gay activist group — disrupted Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News broadcast. “The Gay Raiders ran in front of the camera and held up a sign saying, “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice.”
“I don’t think that there’s anything that has changed the national news coverage for gay and lesbian civil rights as much as the change in Walter Cronkite’s attitude, which is 100 percent attributable to Mark,” Cohen said. “He is an important part of this civil-rights revolution.” n