On the Fourth of July 1965, a small group of gay and lesbian activists held a picketing demonstration in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were discussed, debated, and adopted in the eighteenth century. The demonstration was sponsored by East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), a regional federation that included the Daughters of Bilitis – New York, the Janus Society of Philadelphia, the Mattachine Society of New York, and the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. Press reports indicated that 30-50 people participated in the demonstration, with one source claiming that there were 10 women and 34 men and another counting 11 women and 33 men.

The 1965 Independence Day demonstration in Philadelphia occurred during an upsurge of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activism in the United States. In 1959, LGBT people had fought back during a police raid on Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles. In 1964, there were LGBT protests at the Whitehall Induction Center and against a lecture by a psychoanalyst in New York. In April, May, and June 1965, homophile activists organized demonstrations at the United Nations in New York, the White House and Civil Service Commission in Washington, D.C., and Dewey’s Restaurant in Philadelphia (see The pickets at Independence Hall followed these earlier protests and inspired further demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Annual Reminders” at Independence Hall on the Fourth of July in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969. According to one source, more than 150 people participated in the 1969 demonstration.

The Annual Reminders have much to teach us about the history of gender and sexuality, the politics of LGBT activism, and the dynamics of political protest in the 1960s. The Reminders can be examined from multiple perspectives. These include the perspectives of (1) the activists who participated in the demonstrations, (2) homophile critics who thought that the demonstrations were too radical or too conservative, (3) people who were opposed to LGBT rights, and (4) LGBT and non-LGBT observers and commentators. The Reminders can be studied in relation to their local, regional, and national contexts and in terms of how they changed over time. The influence of the civil rights and antiwar movements on the Reminders can be examined, as can relationships between the Reminders and other political actions and struggles. The Reminders can help us think about the role of the media in reporting (or not reporting) LGBT news. We can consider the words, appearances, and actions of the picketers. We can study the demographic characteristics of those who participated in the Annual Reminders and those who did not. We can ask about the age, class, gender, race, religion, and sexuality of the participants. We can think about the Annual Reminders in relation to the politics of citizenship, democracy, nationalism, and patriotism. We can situate the Reminders in time, exploring the historical developments that shaped the demonstrations. And we can ask about the impact of the Reminders on later developments.

This feature commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original demonstration and the Annual Reminders that followed. The exhibit has four main features:

First are copies of primary sources from 1965-70, including media reports and archival documents. The media reports include news and feature stories in mainstream newspapers (the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, the Bucks County Courier-Times, the Arizona Republic, and the Delta Democrat-Times), an alternative newspaper (Distant Drummer), an African American newspaper (the Philadelphia Tribune), and the gay and lesbian press (Eastern Mattachine Magazine, Ladder, Mattachine Society of New York Newsletter, Drum, Daughters of Bilitis-Philadelphia Newsletter, Homophile Action League Newsletter, Gay Power, and the Los Angeles Advocates). The archival documents include press releases, demonstration leaflets, and rules for picketing. 

Second are excerpts of oral histories that reference the Annual Reminders. These feature Barbara Gittings, Kay Lahusen, Joan Fleischmann, Ada Bello, Carole Friedman, and Kiyoshi Kuromiya.

Third is a list of the names and affiliations of Annual Reminder participants. The list is based on the research of Bob Skiba, the Curator at the John J Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives at the William Way Community Center and the Curator of the 2015 National Constitution Center exhibit "Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights and the Supreme Court."

Fourth is a bibliography of secondary books, articles, and films. These include works by by scholars, journalists, and activists, including Tracy Baim, John D’Emilio, Martin Duberman, David Eisenbach, Simon Hall, Michael Long, Eric Marcus, Toby Marotta, Robert Self, Marc Stein, Donn Teal, and Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker. The bibliography also includes Glenn Holsten’s 30-minute film documentary on the Annual Reminders.