MSDC Announces the William and Mary Mattachine Research Project

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. is proud to announce the launch of the Mattachine Research Project, in collaboration with the College of William and Mary. Students from the College of William and Mary will work with the Mattachine Society to uncover, analyze, and digitize archival materials documenting Virginia LGBT history.

Collaborating with undergraduate and graduate students, the project will explore local archives, including those of the Virginia Historical Society, the Library of Virginia, and the Valentine Project. Researchers will initially focus on discriminatory laws prohibiting alcohol sales to known homosexuals and anti-sodomy laws that targeted gay men and women.

Jan Hubenthal, an American Studies PhD candidate at William and Mary, was selected as the first Mattachine Project fellow. He told the Flat Hat that the goal was to reverse historical amnesia about discrimination against LGBT Americans. “We tend to think of gay history as a progressive narrative,” Hubenthal said. “We tend to forget about the things that weren’t quite so wonderful and I think that the ultimate end goal for us is to create a historical memory of the things that did happen and of the things that continue to happen. We want to disrupt the narrative of ‘Well, we are done with that.’”

Professor of History and American Studies and Director of the Mattachine Research Project Leisa Meyer hopes that project will reveal unique connections between LGBT history and the history of other repressed minorities. “Richmond was the capital of the confederacy,” Meyer said. “There is a history of slavery and race relations. Virginia was the site of massive resistance in terms of segregation. I am hoping that we will find ways with this project to see how sexuality and race are intertwined and of speaking across what some might understand as barriers.”

The Mattachine Research Project at William and Mary aligns with the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.’s mission—to conduct and fund archive activism–identifying, conserving and interpreting the LGBT historical record. The project—MSDC’s first partnership with a major university—will serve as a model for future MSDC-university collaboration.