Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

Left: two women dressed in male attire. Right, two unidentified men. Both photos from the early 1900s.

Left: two women dressed in male attire. Right: two unidentified men. Both photos are from the early 1900s.

It’s very encouraging to see local efforts to preserve LGBT history in cities and towns all across the country. So much of the study of gay history seems to concentrate itself in the major urban areas. Finding a trove like this one in Lexington, Kentucky, is particularly special. Historian Jonathan Coleman and artist Robert Morgan have compiled more than 12,000 items and 100 hours of recorded interviews to create the Faulkner-Morgan Pagan Babies Archive of LGBTQ life in Kentucky, which is currently seeking a permanent home. Coleman will discuss LGBT history this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the University of Kentucky Central Library:

The project began in 2014, when Morgan, a well-known artist and figure in the gay community, told Coleman about material he had been collecting for decades. Much of it involved Faulkner (1924-1981), a renowned Lexington painter who was “out” long before it was socially acceptable.

Morgan, 66, who befriended Faulkner as a teenager, ended up with most of his photographs and memorabilia.

“Henry started giving me stuff, and he took me to all these houses,” Morgan said. “I would meet all these old gay men who were born in the 1800s, and they would tell stories.”

Members of the "Negro Review", a drag show held in the 1930s at the Woodland Auditorium.

Members of the “Negro Review,” a drag show held in the 1930s at the Woodland Auditorium.

When the AIDS epidemic hit in the 1980s, Morgan cared for many local victims.

“Sometimes I was taking care of people I didn’t really know, and their families would come when they would die and throw all of their stuff in the street,” he said. “I would go back that night and go through the boxes and save their personal stuff, because it upset me so much that the families just threw all that away. I ended up with scrapbooks and photographs and ephemera documenting people’s whole lives.”

When people heard that Morgan was collecting, they brought him more material. An elderly man in Louisville sold him dozens of photographs of unidentified gay couples and cross-dressers he found over the years at Kentucky yard sales and flea markets.

…The archive includes a lot of drag photographs, including black men in women’s clothing performing in 1930s shows at the old auditorium in Woodland Park.

“Sometimes the only history we have are naked men and drag queens, because they were not worried about people seeing them in photographs,” Morgan said. They’re not representative of the larger gay community, he said, but “sometimes you have to take your history where you find it.”


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