We’ve Had Anuff: Black Gay and Lesbian Antipoverty Activism during the HIV/AIDS Crisis in Atlanta, 1985–96

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 11:10 AM
Thurgood Marshall East (Marriott Wardman Park)
Andrew Pope, Harvard University
This essay examines the transformation of the gay liberation movement into the modern gay rights movement during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Atlanta. The success of the gay liberation movement encouraged an influx of young professionals into Atlanta beginning in the 1980s. Once the AIDS crisis began, white young professionals seized leadership positions within former gay liberation organizations. The new leadership achieved important successes: it defeated a referendum to repeal the city’s non-discrimination ordinance and turned the Atlanta Human Rights Campaign into a political force. However, the new establishment often excluded women, poor black people, and those who did not conform to typical gender norms. The paper draws on archival evidence and oral history interviews to demonstrate how an interracial group of activists in Atlanta responded by forming ACTUP. The ACTUP chapter conducted direct actions to stop job discrimination, occupied the Center for Disease Control national headquarters to protest the exclusion of women from AIDS-testing, and included people of color in its leadership. While ACTUP lacked the institutional support of AHRC, it succeeded in laying the groundwork for a coalition that would challenge Atlanta’s redevelopment policies in preparation for the 1996 Olympics. After the International Olympic Committee announced that the 1996 Olympics would be held in Atlanta, ACTUP activists worked with straight black antipoverty activists to form an organization called Atlanta Neighborhoods United for Fairness (ANUFF). ANUFF led efforts to prevent politicians from razing black neighborhoods to make room for Olympic parks. In addition, gay men and lesbians formed organizations like Olympics Out of Cobb County and Or Else to bring world attention to the homophobia in the Atlanta area. The new coalition of feminists, queer people of color, and black antipoverty activists challenged the rightward tilt of the gay rights movement and mainstream political parties in the 1980s and 1990s.
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