Early Gay Rights in West Adams

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Category: Our History
Published on Sunday, 23 October 2011 15:59
Written by John Patterson

West Adams was home to some of the earliest gay rights activists in the country. The Michael J. Connell Carriage House on 23rd near Hoover has been a part of the fabric of West Adams from the very beginning days of the gay right’s movement dating back to the late 1940’s. Today this University Park community is also home to ONE Archive, the largest collection of memorabilia on the subject of the gay rights movement from that early era up to today.

Fredric Frisbee, a long-time resident of West Adams, lived for many years at the Carriage house and was one of the early pioneers of what became known as the “Mattachine Foundation” The term “Mattachine” has its roots in the Societe Mattachine, a French medieval masque group that traveled from village to village, using ballads and dramas to point out social injustice.

Jim Childs (whose 2004 nomination of the Carriage House resulted in the designation of  Historic Cultural Monument # 779) had numerous conversations with his neighbor Mr. Frisbee, about the many early meetings that were held there. It was at his home that the leaders made a unanimous decision to meld all of the various gay rights groups into “ONE, Incorporated.” A line from a poem by Thomas Carlyle inspired the name: “A mystic bond of brother hood makes all men one.”

 

In April, 1951 the group produced a single-page document that summarized not only their goals, but their understanding of themselves as an oppressed minority. Often victims of police entrapment, the nascent group was soon presented with their first legal challenge; a founding member, Dale Jennings was arrested.  The media ignored the case so the group took it upon themselves to produce leaflets under the auspices of the “Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment,” and distributed them in neighborhoods with a high density of gay residents.  At trial, Jennings acknowledged being homosexual, but denied the charges against him.  The jury ultimately deadlocked, and the attorney general chose to drop the case.  Warren Johansson summarizes “The contrast with the usual timidity and hypocrisy in such cases was such that the Citizens Committee justifiably call the outcome a “great victory.”

 

With this victory and a growing sense of empowerment, ONE Magazine was launched, with Mr. Jennings serving as its first editor.  It is from this first “gay magazine” that the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives takes its name. Located in our community at 908 W. Adams Blvd the archives preserve the history and promotes understanding of  our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered citizens. A visit to the archives reveals the confrontation between ONE Magazine and the US Postal Service, a battle that went all the way to the supreme court, which ultimately ruled unanimously that the “mere discussion of homosexuality could not be branded obscene.”  You will also learn about the fire that burned down the gay MCC Church at 22nd and Union in 1972 and you can also browse through the archived magazines. For a tour or more info about One Archives, call

213.741.0094 or visit their website www.onearchives.org

 

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