June is LGBT Pride month! Buffalo State College has digitized the most complete known collection of Fifth Freedom. Fifth Freedom was the official publication of Western New York’s most prominent early gay rights organization, the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier. These issues span from 1970 to 1983.

December 1st, 1983, Fifth Freedom

The national organization of the Mattachine Society was formed in 1950 to protect and improve the rights of homosexuals. The Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier was the first gay and lesbian civil rights organization in Western New York (http://www.outcomebuffalo.com/haynes-200811-100843073d.htm). It was co-founded in 1970 by bar-owner Jim Garrows, librarian & activist Madeline Davis, professor Dr. James Haynes, and others. Incidentally, Madeline Davis co-taught the first lesbianism course at an American university: Lesbianism 101 at the University of Buffalo and founded the Buffalo GLBT Archives.

The Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier (MSNF) was one of a many gay rights organizations to form following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The University of Buffalo’s Gay Liberation Front was formed a few months after the MSNF, as well as a new group called the Radicalesbians. By March of 1971, gay rights activists in New York State had organized 3,000 people to show up in Albany for the first American statewide march for Gay Rights. More information about that march can be seen on the 40th Anniversary Website.

Fifth Freedom was initially printed on legal sized paper, folded in half and stapled, usually containing about 20 pages. Years later, it was printed as a newsprint. It was free and had a circulation of about 1,200 copies (source). This excellent primary source documents the struggle for gay rights in New York during a tumultuous time.

June 1st, 1976, Fifth Freedom

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NewYorkHeritage.org is a research portal for students, educators, historians, genealogists, and others who are interested in learning more about the people, places and institutions of historical New York State. The site provides immediate free access to more than 160 distinct digital collections that reflect New York State's long history.
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