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Primary Sources for LGBT Research

This guide identifies manuscript collections and rare book collections that may be useful for scholars and researchers of LGBT studies and the history of sexuality in the U.S.

Baldwin, James (MSS 949)

James Baldwin Letters to David Moses, 1971-1983; .25 linear ft. (1 box)

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was born and raised in Harlem, New York.  At age 14, Baldwin became a preacher at a small church in Harlem.  Baldwin graduated from high school in 1942 and eventually moved to Greenwich Village.  His focus shifted from religion to writing, and he became involved with other writers of the time, including Richard Wright.  In 1948, fed up with America’s racism and homophobia, Baldwin moved to France, where he gained enough distance to write about the America he knew.  Baldwin began living part-time in New York in 1957 and became an active participant in the civil rights movement.  In the early 1960s, he moved back to the United States and continued to be an important voice for equality and universal brotherhood through his writing and his activism.  His works have been noted for their homoerotic themes, as well as for their reflection of Baldwin’s views on social justice and inequality. 

The collection consists of correspondence from Baldwin to David Moses from 1971-1983.  They met at a party when Moses was twenty-one.  From then on, Baldwin served as friend, mentor, and confidante to Moses.  The letters from Baldwin to Moses span more than a decade and address personal and professional matters, including Baldwin’s current writing projects, as well as his health.  The letters also offer insight into the creative, financial, and political challenges of writing and publishing.

Georgia Women's Christian Temperance Union (MSS 647)

Georgia Women's Christian Temperance Union Records, 1888-1982; 26 linear ft. (58 boxes, 67 oversized folders, 2 audio cassettes)

The first Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in Georgia was founded in Atlanta after Eliza Stewart, one of those instrumental in the 1874 founding of the national WCTU, spoke to a group of Atlanta temperance advocates.  After the initial contact, other national WCTU organizers, including Frances E. Willard, visited cities and towns throughout the state.  By 1883 there were enough unions in the state to organize the Georgia Woman's Christian Temperance Union.  The WCTU as a whole was primarily a temperance organization, but because its leaders, if not its members, identified alcohol as a root of most social ills, they participated in many of the social reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Of particular interest are items related to moral reform and the moral education of children.  While homosexuality is not explicitly addressed, the rhetoric of “natural” sexual development and warnings against moral degradation are reminiscent of the campaigns against homosexuality during the same time period.

McMillan, Louise (MSS 875)

Louise McMillan Papers, ca. 1900-1950; 6 linear ft. (12 boxes)

Emma Louise McMillan was born October 28, 1890, and was raised in Marion, South Carolina.  After high school, she attended Limestone College, a women’s school in Gaffney, South Carolina.  After leaving Limestone (poor health kept her from completing her degree), Louise went on to attend the Baptist Women’s Missionary Union Training School in Kentucky, where she received nursing training. She worked briefly as a nurse and as a teacher before settling in Marion, where she lived the rest of her life with her sister.  The extensive letters from her sister, college friends, and other family members offer insight into their thoughts on women’s education, suffrage, marriage, and business and financial matters. Of particular interest are the letters from various Limestone students, which describe the homosocial world of the women’s college and the intimate friendships that thrived there.  There are also letters related to the lives and relationships of women who chose not to marry.