The late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny will be inducted on Oct. 11, the second anniversary of his death, into Chicago’s Legacy Walk, an outdoor LGBT history exhibit that commemorates the lives of historically significant LGBT people.
Victor Salvo, founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Legacy Project, which operates the Legacy Walk, told the Blade that among the others to be inducted into the exhibit this year along with Kameny is American poet Walt Whitman.
In what some have described as a unique outdoor museum, the Legacy Walk consists of at least 17 25-foot-tall decorative “Rainbow Pylons” placed along a half-mile section of North Halsted Street in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood, which is known for its high concentration of LGBT residents and visitors.
Attached to each of the pylons are between one or more 18-inch by 24-inch bronze plaques that include a photo image and written description of one of the LGBT people inducted into the Legacy Walk exhibit. Eighteen of the plaques were installed on the pylons in October 2012 in the first phase of the exhibit, according to a write-up on its website. New plaques are to be added each year, with some of the existing ones rotated into an indoor exhibit hall scheduled to open in 2014, the write up says.
“Some of the plaques will commemorate significant events in GLBT history, but most will posthumously memorialize the lives and work of notable gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals whose achievement have helped shape the world – but whose contributions, sexual orientation or gender identity have been overlooked, minimized or censored entirely from most historic texts,” the Legacy Walk website says.
Kameny has been credited with playing a key role in shaping the U.S. LGBT rights movement beginning in the early 1960s as co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the city’s first gay rights organization. Kameny became the first known gay person to contest in the federal courts his dismissal from his job as an astronomer for the federal government because of his sexual orientation.
Others inducted into the Legacy Walk in 2012 include African-American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin; writer and novelist James Baldwin; British artificial intelligence researcher Alan Turing; British writer and novelist Oscar Wilde; U.S. lesbian activist and 1960s era gay rights pioneer and Kameny colleague Barbara Gittings; and San Francisco Supervisor and gay rights leader Harvey Milk.