Origins

The SC LGBTQ Oral Histories, Archives, and Outreach project began in 2016 with support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. Today, the project has more than 55 recorded interviews and 17 collections available to the campus community and the public.

Our Work

We have developed a three-pronged program: oral histories, archives, and outreach. We record oral history interviews and collect documentary evidence such as letters, photographs, manuscripts, ephemera, and other materials that prove LGBTQ+ people have always been here and have consistently worked against prejudice to shape the life and culture of the Lowcountry. We connect these resources with students, faculty, and members of our community.

Archival:

Through purchases and gifts, our archives now has materials documenting a possible intersex individual who lived in Charleston before the Civil War; the papers of important LGBTQ+ cultural leaders, including some who lived on what is now the College of Charleston campus; as well as materials documenting out men and women who ran for statewide and national political office, and those who helped shape the national discourse on LGBTQ+ rights.  We are also documenting active organizations such as the Alliance for Full Acceptance and We Are Family ; we are documenting defunct ones like the Lowcountry Gay and Lesbian Alliance. To learn about additional collections and resources please visit our LibGuide.

Oral Histories:

As vitally important as the written record of a community is its oral one, handed down through time. For years, LGBTQ+ people were silenced, censored and written out of history. Our project records, transcribes, and posts interviews on the Lowcountry Digital Library. To listen to the interviews, view our oral history collection on the Lowcountry Digital Library.

Outreach: 

With support from The Mellon Foundation, the SC LGBTQ project is working to engage more students, faculty, staff, and members of the community as stewards, users, and stakeholders in this work. We are developing primary source sets for classroom use and convening a community advisory board to inform current and future directions of the project.

Future Directions

When scholars want to document the local LGBTQ+ rights movement, we can help. If a struggling teen needs to believe that LGBTQ+ people can live here happily and proudly, and not just in faraway urban areas, we are here.  Our visible and vocal presence on our campus, where more than 18% of our students self-identify as LGBTQ+ and gender expansive, has worked to help make history, and not just preserve it. The College of Charleston now holds more forums for its LGBTQ+ students, sports more supportive signage, and participates in major events in the community like never before.

In the summer of 2024, the SC LGBTQ Oral Histories, Archives and Outreach project (SC LGBTQ was awarded a grant that expands its ability to collect and steward archival materials in non-traditional, community-centered ways.

The $24,000 grant funds will support:

  • An undergraduate research fellowship responsible for creating new avenues for students, faculty and scholars to utilize collection materials in coursework and scholarship.
  • The formation of an SC LGBTQ advisory board with members drawn from across the College of Charleston campus, local non-profit organizations and community advocates.
  • Welcoming community archiving and LGBTQ history scholars to campus to guest lecture during a new First Year Experience Learning Community, "Queer America: Archives and History of the LGBTQ+ Community.”
  • A public event discussing the challenges and opportunities of archival projects seeking to save and share the stories of marginalized groups.

The one-year grant, part of the Community-Centered Archives Practice: Transforming Education, Archives, and Community History initiative, isled by the University of California, Irvine Libraries and funded by The Mellon Foundation.

While the first phase of the SC LGBTQ project revolved around building an impressive collection of materials documenting the experiences of LGBTQ+ and gender expansive individuals and organizations in our region. This grant award supports our efforts to embark on the next phase of the SC LGBTQ project centered around outreach and access. The College of Charleston’s Special Collections is one of only a handful of institutions nation-wide chosen to join this elite cohort of academic libraries working to build meaningful partnerships in their communities. All funds will go directly to College of Charleston students or LGBTQIA+ community organizations.

Research & Reports

An Assessment of the College of Charleston’s LGBTQ Campus Climate in Comparison to Its Peer & Aspirational Peer Institutions.

College of Charleston Campus Pride Index LGBTQ review, analysis, and recommendation (2016).

College of Charleston Student Survey LGBTQ Analysis June 20, 2017 Part One.

College of Charleston Student Survey LGBTQ Analysis June 20, 2017 Part Two.

The LGBTQ Archives in the News 

Please visit link to a Post and Courier article about the project entitled, "Lack of funding jeopardizes future of Charleston’s only archive dedicated to LGBTQ history."

Please visit link to a Post and Courier article about the project entitled, "As Charleston area gay bars vanish, historian seeks help documenting their heyday."

Please visit link to a Post and Courier article about the project entitled, "New LGBTQ archive at College of Charleston receives grant to help document neglected era of history." 

Resources

Visit Go.CofC.edu/LGBTQ for campus and community resources.

Join the new CofC LGBTQ affinity group to encourage projects such as these by clicking here.

General inquiries

specialcollections [at] cofc [dot] edu