First Queer History South conference in Birmingham
The Dallas Way set to co-sponsor Queer History South conference next February
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
The Dallas Way will be among the sponsors of the Queer History South conference to be held in Dallas Feb. 18-20. The conference is open to anyone interested but will be of particular interest to archivists, historians and researchers as well as students, teachers and those involved in community organizations preserving local LGBTQ history. The focus will be on southern states from Virginia to Florida to Texas.
The Dallas Way has been the premier organization in North Texas collecting and preserving the history of the LGBTQ communities in the area. That organization partners with the libraries at University of North Texas to collect items such as T-shirts, posters and photos to help document the history of the community.
UNT has digitized many of the photos and documents that have been collected, making them available for students, writers and researchers. Of all of its many collections, the LGBTQ collection is its most accessed, library officials say.
Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center, recalled, “Resource Center was the first LGBTQ nonprofit organization to contribute archives to UNT, as far as I know. … Resource Center worked with the UNT library staff, the library dean, and Dr. Mark Vosvick for several years to draft an agreement and contract for the donation, as we wanted to ensure that the Phil Johnson Archives and other artifacts would be properly preserved and made available to the public. In 2012, we announced the donation to UNT. … After that, Mike Anglin asked if we would be willing to share our contract, as he was working to draft an agreement between The Dallas Way and UNT. We gladly assisted.”
The Dallas Way began its work in 2011 soon after Jack Evans and George Harris were interviewed for a story about their 50th anniversary as a couple. After telling stories of Evans’ escapades in the 1950s and Harris’ arrest for serving while gay in the military, it was suggested to them that their stories and other stories about LGBTQ Dallas history be preserved.
So Harris sent an email to dozens of their friends who were active in the LGBTQ community, floating the idea and asking, “Will it fly?”
It flew. The organization first began looking for a partner to store and preserve archived material. Once UNT jumped on board, the donations started pouring in. Resource Center donated its Phil Johnson Collection. Johnson had collected every article written about the LGBTQ community in Dallas’ two newspapers since the 1940s. He also had every issue of This Week In Texas and other publications.
Dallas Voice donated a copy of every issue printed since its founding in 1984 and helped cover the cost of digitizing the first two decades of publication. Also in the archives is the original typewriter used by longtime Dallas Voice editor Dennis Vercher, who wrote every one of his stories on the typewriter right up until the paper switched to word processors at the end of the 1980s.
Other organizations moved files full of documents to UNT to be preserved in a new cold storage facility that had recently been built on the Denton campus just for this purpose.
Anglin, one of The Dallas Way’s founders, said Dallas is one of the cities to begin collecting its LGBTQ history early on. Today, groups have popped up throughout the south, including a major organization in Birmingham. That city hosted the first Queer History South conference several years ago. Anglin said he’s heard of groups around California and one in Washington, D.C., that are archiving their areas’ histories as well.
Anglin added that he hopes people from around Texas attend this year’s conference in Dallas and continue collecting the rich LGBTQ history from around the state.
Robert Emery, another founder of The Dallas Way who attended the first conference, is heading the committee running the Dallas conference along with Carl Parker. Emery said an interesting group of people at the Birmingham gathering are museum curators. As a result of that, he said, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, whose LGBTQ collection is growing, will host the Saturday night event that includes a look at its archives of artifacts.
Emery noted that Dallas College’s El Centro campus is also getting involved in archiving LGBTQ history and will host the plenaries and workshops for the conference.
For those traveling to Dallas to attend, the new Westin Dallas Downtown is offering a conference rate of $119. To help defray costs of staging the conference, Emery said, the 10th annual The Dallas Way fundraising brunch at Kay Wilkinson’s house on Dec. 5 will have a double ask — funding for the archives at UNT and funding for the conference. Emery said he will match any money raised that morning.
For more information on the Queer History South conference, visit InvisibleHistory.org/qhs. Registration for the conference opens Oct. 11. To register for The Dallas Way brunch, contact RobEmery@me.com.