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National Park Service Launches Initiative to Identify LGBT Historic Sites

National Park Service Launches Initiative to Identify LGBT Historic Sites

Written by Zack Ford

David Smith is thrilled that the National Park Service is launching a new initiative to identify key places and people of significance related to LGBT history. He and his husband, John Evans, have both been working for the Park Service for over two decades, where has has found “total acceptance.” “The gay and lesbian community are also part of our landscape,” he explains, and its history is “just as relevant” as the many other cultural and religious groups that “make America so rich.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the new plan last week, which will entail convening a panel of scholars to identify relevant sites to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, to be designated as National Landmarks, or to be considered national monuments. Park Service Director Jonathan Director hopes that the department’s role as “America’s storyteller through place” can expand to represent the “full complement of the American experience.”

Smith currently lives with Evans and their two children, Dante (age 12) and Jakiah (age 10), in Topeka, Kan., where he serves as superintendent for the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. The site consists of Monroe Elementary School, one of the four elementary schools in the city that were segregated for African-American children prior to the decision, and is one of 26 National Parks supported by the Park Service’s African American Experience Fund.

Similar Heritage Initiatives exist to help preserve other groups’ histories, including the LGBT community. A Center for American Progress report found, however, that fewer than 15 percent of National Parks and Monuments have a dedicated focus to under-represented populations and none dedicated to the LGBT community. Currently, only one LGBT property is designated a National Historic Landmark — the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village — and three others are included in the National Register of Historic Places. Smith hopes that the new effort can expand these lists, and possibly lead to recommendations for Congress or the President to designate historic sites as official park units. Though a historic place could be recognized by no more than a plaque, an official park “has to be preserved forever.”

Smith explains that parks are “relevant to all Americans,” so even at places like the Brown v. Board historic site he oversees or the new César E. Chávez National Monument, which have historic significance to a particular social group, the implications of the stories chronicled there impact everybody. He hopes that the new initiative recognizes more LGBT locations for this same purpose, like Harvey Milk’s camera shop in the Castro of San Francisco, but, he notes, “There have been gays and lesbians involved in every park in the United States at one time in history.”

The study is being funded by philanthropist Tim Gill and is expected to be completed by 2016.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: David Smith

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79 comments

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3:14AM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

GREAT IDEA AND GREAT ACTION TO TAKE.

6:11AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

Actually i believe given the proliferation and advertising of how great gay relationships are makes me think this is just another effort of the bankers who are the secret government desiring to reduce the worlds population by two thirds to ensure their safety from us waking up and having the numbers to put them down from their current position. So i actually feel sorry for gays as being just a puppet like the millions of women who have trouble becoming pregnant after many years on the pill etc.

6:01AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

Continued ... I also fail to see whats so special about someone who comes into this world failing in the ability to have any kind of relationship with the opposite sex.

5:57AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

What a sick society of egotist we are breeding now the gays want recognition to having special places, what sick nonsense is this, im all for people being able to live as they please in the privacy of their home or on the streets but I draw the line when any group wants to ram their particular beliefs down my throat or put up monuments to show how better they are than the rest of us which is why i have no interest in monuments of any kind especially as a veteran the proliferation of glorifying wars in war memorials etc. I see no benefit to humanity honoring anyone who sacrifices their lives for the bankers as cannon fodder to perpetrate the profits of war.

11:35AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

Very cool!
Thx B Mutiny for petition to sign!

10:21AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

Thanks

10:58PM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Here is a PETITION to sign:

http://forcechange.com/127309/applaud-project-to-recognize-lgbt-historical-sites/

Note that a lot of this is being PRIVATELY FUNDED.
This is not about "sex" or people's sexuality.
This is about a MOVEMENT.
If you weren't in the Movement, or weren't aware of the Movement, fine. You don't have to be.
We who WERE, like having our own Historic Contribution recognized!!!

[There's also an exhibit on the Movement, right now, in Seattle's Museum of History and Industry, which deals with Washington State History.
Very meaningful to those of us who were there...]

10:49AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

'relevant sites to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, to be designated as National Landmarks, or to be considered national monuments'

Basically this would mean, such things as NOT tearing down a building or landmark of Historic Significance to LGBT people - NOT "developing" a property and making it into let's say a parking lot or a strip mall - like one tries to preserve a Civil War Battlefield from "development" {and that hasn't always been successful!}.
Also it would mean putting a "Plaque" or some sort of PERMANENT MARKER on such a site - even if it was torn down and replaced with some other building!
This might include, not only such a place as the Stonewall Inn, but maybe significant homes and churches where LGBT rights got started... which was often in discussions in peoples' living rooms! You KNOW, how often "developers" tear down perfectly usable, historically- and aesthetically-interesting buildings, just to put up some "new" monstrosity and MAKE MORE MONEY off the property!!!!!
This process would kindof slow that down, at least! Also, it could put Historic Markers on such "permanent" buildings as San Francisco City Hall, where important Rights Activities took place - just a Plaque ACKNOWLEDGING that fact...

10:16AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Agree with Tim W.
“There have always been gays and lesbians involved in every places in the United States and elsewhere at anytime in history.”
There is no gay community but a ghetto which, like all others, is the result of social rejection. Such rejection affects people, not their homosexuality.

5:03AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Yes people should be defined by what they do first. The point is that by ignoring the fact that a person is gay is also allowing people to continue to ignore the contribution gay people make to society. Lets also not forget that not all landmarks and historic sites are for a person. Take the StoneWall Inn for instance. That historic site is commemorating a historic event which was significant to the LGBT community.

It is important that when some one reads about a persons accomplishments they know if he or she was also a member of a group of people that were oppressed by the society they tried to help. Maybe it would be more appropriate to say things like, Such and such did such and such for his country all the while living a sad lonely life because the bigoted majority of that society would not allow such and such to be him or her self.

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