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Resources in LGBTQ History in the United States: 1900 to 2019 (November 2019): Home

by Lisa N. Johnston


This bibliographic essay originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Choice (volume 57 | number 3). 


The study of the history and culture of LGBTQ people in the US is an essential part of understanding US history and society. During the past 100 years, there have been remarkable positive advances in civil rights and anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. In 2011, the Senate of the State of California passed SB48, “The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act” (FAIR Education Act) into law, thus mandating that the economic and social contributions of disabled and LGBT people to the history of the US and California be incorporated into the social sciences curriculum in public schools.1  More such curriculum revisions in other states are certain to follow.  In higher education the inclusion of LGBTQ studies in curriculum as a discipline for specialization came much earlier when the first Gay and Lesbian Studies Department was established in 1989 at the City College of San Francisco. Thirty years later, according to the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington’s homepage, there are twenty-three such departments.2

The year 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The raid erupted into a spontaneous uprising that began on June 28, 1969, and continued over several nights. The Stonewall Inn catered to an LGBTQ clientel that included drag queens, hustlers, transgender women of color, and homeless gay teens, among others. The Stonewall Uprising will forever be considered the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement. This essay will discuss resources on the events in LGBTQ US history that preceded and followed those nights in June 1969.

This essay focuses on primary and secondary resources for the study of twentieth and twenty-first century LGBTQ history in the United States. It highlights books, digitized collections, and documentary films that are most useful in an undergraduate setting. Many of the secondary resources cited are useful tools for locating primary resources as they include extensive bibliographies of interviews with subjects, newspaper articles, legal records, and even ephemera. There are an overwhelming number of memoirs, collections of letters, and biographies that would be better suited to a separate project. A few works have been chosen that are particularly notable in that they both examine the time period and the life of an individual. Both scholarly and popular resources have been included. In compiling the materials for this essay, the author used lists of award-winning books as well as bibliographies provided by the Stonewall Book Awards’ Israel Fishman Award for Nonfiction of the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, as well non-fiction award lists from The Lambda Literary Foundation and the Publishing Triangle. The bibliographic resources consulted include Resources for College Libraries, Books in Print, and WorldCat. Even a casual examination of WorldCat and Books in Print shows evidence of a boom in publishing of LGBTQ+ non-fiction and other literary genres. However, it is challenging to determine exact numbers of titles published in a given year due to numerous inconsistencies in subject search terms. The list of works cited that follows is in no way meant to be comprehensive; instead it is an entry point into the field of LGBTQ history in the United States.

The essay is divided into separate sections beginning with general or more comprehensive titles on LGBTQ+ history that provide an overview of the subject, as well as traditional reference works that supply background information for readers who might be unfamiliar with people, places, and events. That is followed by sections that are divided by time periods. I incorporate a separate segment on the Stonewall Uprising both to highlight newer works and in honor of its fiftieth anniversary.

1.   California Legislative Information, “SB-48 Pupil instruction: prohibition of discriminatory content,”  Viewed July 12, 2019.

 2.  Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, “Queer Sexuality Programs,”  Accessed July 12, 2019.

Lisa N. Johnston is director of library services, librarian for the Letters Collegium, and associate professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL.