Yale University's Larry Kramer Initiative Presents -- The Pink and the Blue: Lesbian and Gay Life at Yale and in Connecticut, 1642-2004; Major Exhibit the First to Explore Yale's Lesbian and Gay History

“The Pink and the Blue: Lesbian and Gay Life at Yale and in Connecticut, 1642-2004,” a groundbreaking exhibit exploring the lesbian and gay history of one of America’s oldest and most influential educational institutions opens at the Sterling Library at Yale University on February 7th. The Pink and the Blue pieces together fragments of a history not yet written. It moves chronologically from Connecticut’s early colonial laws mandating

3 Yale men in a theatrical production, circa 1880

It includes stories of individuals and accounts of political organizing. Covering 362 years, and focusing on 60 events or people, this groundbreaking exhibit provides a first, tantalizing glimpse of tales touching on law, religion, morality, medicine, public health, politics, education, immigration, African-American and white culture, women’s and men’s social lives.

“Studded with revelations, The Pink and The Blue makes clear that it is impossible to conceive of the modern Yale University absent its lesbian and gay past,” said Jonathan D. Katz, executive coordinator of the Larry Kramer Initiative.

Two years of exhaustive research by pioneering historian Jonathan Ned Katz in concert with graduate student Brad Walters have produced a revealing portrait of lesbian and gay life both within an historic elite institution and the often very different social worlds surrounding it. It includes the life story of John William Sterling, an 1864 graduate who, after almost half century with the same man, left Yale what was then the largest bequest ever to an American institution; of Alan Hart, the Yale-trained director of Connecticut’s tuberculosis program who, born a woman, lived his life as a man: of Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus, a domestic and a teacher respectively, an intimate relationship between two 19th Century African-American women.

From the music of Cole Porter to the journalism of Sarah Pettit, to the work of pioneering academics like John Boswell, Judith Butler, George Chauncey, and Eve Sedgwick, Yale alumni’s contributions have helped define lesbian and gay life in America today. Yale has also been a central player in the institutionalization of lesbian and gay studies in the academy, from founding the first national lesbian and gay studies conferences, to the recent establishment of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies.

Finally, “The Pink and the Blue” looks both at gay and lesbian life at Yale and the ways Yale and the community have interacted around issues of sexuality. The first sodomy case in New Haven was prosecuted in 1642, and Yale has long been a bulwark for those who could find refuge behind its walls. In the 1960’s, French novelist John Genet did a lecture bridging Yale and the Black Panthers, and in the 1990’s and early years of the 21st century, Yale students have lead the fight for Domestic Partnership rights in the city of New Haven.

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