Happy Juneteenth everyone! For those who don’t know, Juneteenth is a new federal holiday here in the United States, but has been celebrated by African-Americans since 1866. It commemorates the enforced end of slavery in Texas after the Civil War, as Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (issued in 1863, during the height of the war) was limited to states under Union control. Texas, being so far from the rest of the Union and the war, did not have access to the Emancipation and white people in power actively kept the Emancipation Proclamation from enslaved people and African-Americans in general. The holiday takes place on the anniversary of the Union troops arriving in Galveston, Texas and informing everyone that the enslaved people were now free. Since then, this day has been celebrated by African-Americans across the country and became a federal holiday in 2021. If you would like to learn more about Juneteenth from the perspective of African-American scholarship, we recommend looking to the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s online Juneteenth exhibit. To celebrate over here at QZAP, today’s Zine of the Gay is Black Lesbians in the 70s and Before – An At Home Tour At The Lesbian Herstory Archives.
Originally made for the Lesbians in the 70s conference held by the CUNY Graduate Center in 2010, this zine is a curated look at the black-focused records in the Lesbian Herstory Archives by prominent archivist, librarian, zinester, and lesbian Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz. It’s filled to the brim with newspaper clippings, scans of books and magazines, the records of activist groups, pieces of archival finding aids, academic papers, conference proceedings, calls for writing to academic and creative publications, event flyers, quotes, and notes from Shawn(ta). The zine being made up of collages and notes from Shawn(ta) makes reading it feel like you’re the one in the archive doing research, creating piles of papers and notes around you while you work.
The records include stories of protests against the arrest of black lesbians defending themselves from assault, statements made in the creation of alternative spaces for black lesbians, definitions of Butches, and most importantly the experiences of black lesbians, many focused on the difficulty of having multiple minority identities. A particularly powerful quote from the zine reads:
We will continue to demand our right to exist as productive, free, equal, black, gay beautiful women… There is a place for us in this society, and we will proudly take it at all costs. Even if it means breaking off from our so-called liberal white sisters and brothers, so-called liberal gay sisters and brothers, so-called liberal black sisters and brothers. Get-it-together, because we are.
-Elandria V. Henderson, 1971
After the records from the archive, the zine gives us records of the archive, including collecting policies, directions on how to create your own special collection, copyright laws, and donor agreement forms. After this section is a fun list readers can write in of “Stuff I’m Gonna Donate to the Archives.” The zine ends with Shawn(ta)’s contact information and a note to readers that they should schedule a consultation and create their own special collections. She says, “We’ll have tea/coffee… it’ll be fun!”
We highly recommend reading this playful yet powerful zine as a part of your Juneteenth celebrations this year, or to connect with this important, often overlooked, history any time of year.
Kit Gorton is a current intern at QZAP and graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in library science and English, with focuses on archives and media studies. A rather queer Hobbit, Kit is most often seen collecting things (such as leaves, rocks, books and the like) or doting on their cat, Good Omens Written in Collaboration by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett.