William & Mary Libraries announces new Archive of American LGBTQ Political and Legal History

A new and unique Archive of American LGBTQ Political and Legal History is being established at Swem Library in memory of renown historian John Boswell ’69, it was announced today by Carrie Cooper, dean of University Libraries at William & Mary.

“We are thrilled to establish this new archive at Swem Library,” Cooper said.  “There are many fabulous collections of LGBTQ historical materials in libraries across the country, but this archive will have a unique focus on the political and legal architecture of the movement.”

Established in memory of William & Mary alumnus John Boswell, one of the most important scholars of LGBTQ history, the new archive will provide researchers and historians a foundational understanding of the political and legal advances and setbacks of LGBTQ Americans in the struggle for full citizenship.

“This exciting new archive will collect materials that illuminate the history of LGBTQ Americans’ struggle to secure their rights through the political and legal systems of the nation,” said former W&M Rector Jeff Trammell ’73.

“John Boswell was perhaps the most respected scholar on the history of LGBTQ rights and relationships and received his B.A. in history at William & Mary. It is appropriate to create this archive in his memory,” Trammel added. “We believe that it will attract considerable support in the coming years.”

The new archive will begin with the donation of two outstanding collections. First, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.’s collection of their “archive activism” focuses primarily on the history of federal discrimination against LGBTQ civilian employees and military personnel. The second donation is the material collected from Trammell’s tenure as the first openly gay board chair of a major public university. Trammell’s collection includes materials related to efforts to achieve non-discrimination policies and domestic partner benefits in Virginia. 

“We look forward to making these thousands of pages of materials available to researchers nationwide in a digital database of LGBTQ legal and political history that will grow over time,” said Jay Gaidmore, director of Swem’s Special Collections Research Center.

Co-founded by Charles Francis and Pate Felts MBA ’78, this Mattachine collection is “the result of over ten years effort to amass the evidentiary history of past federal and state government assault on LGBTQ Americans,” said Francis.  

“This includes original, declassified documents obtained by meticulous research into sources such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, numerous Presidential Library archives, and public and university libraries, to name just a few,” Felts said. 

“Our research included countless Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to federal and state agencies including litigation when necessary. Research made consequential by our unique partnership with the international law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery and their twenty-plus pro bono team of attorneys devoted to the Mattachine’s mission,” said Francis.

“With an underlying belief in the power of history, we call our efforts archive activism,” he added.  “We are excited that this unique archive at Swem Library should attract similar collections to document this important era in American history.”