Finding Each Other in History:
Stories from LGBTQ+ Durham

Finding Each Other in History: Stories from LGBTQ+ Durham opened September 16th at the Museum of Durham History. Special guest correspondent and lifelong Durham resident, Josh Factor, shares his reaction to the exhibit with the Clarion Content.

A Look into the Past

by: Josh Factor

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A significant milestone was reached here in our fair city last month when the Museum of Durham History opened its newest exhibit, Finding Each Other in History: Stories from LGBTQ+ Durham. How fitting that it should open the same week as the Pride Parade. (The museum has stated this was by design.)

Nestled in the heart of downtown, the museum, informally known as “The Hub”, was once the central bus depot. It serves as a portal to Durham’s past. It also strives to function as an unofficial visitor center to tourists and Durham natives alike, with the official one just down the road.

As I walked in, I couldn’t help but think about how much progress we’ve made, considering same-sex marriage wasn’t even legal in this state just two years ago. Of course, HB2 serves as a constant reminder that we still have a ways to go, but I like to think it of as a minor speed bump on the road to equality.

The exhibit, which has been six years in the making, features personal narratives that demonstrate how the LGBTQ community in Durham has a long, albeit often unacknowledged, history of overcoming adversity here, dating back to the 1960’s. It’s a story of bravery and progress, which may not have happened if not for the people who had the audacity to stand up for what they believe in.

The exhibit itself wasn’t quite as big as I was expecting, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The museum has audio recordings of some of the historic moments that paved the way for the LGBTQ community. Plus, there are many more stories featured on the companion website here. (The website is maintained by our fabulous Durham Library.)

It was interesting listening to the different recordings and learning about some of the hardships the community has faced over the years. Of course, it’s always tragic to hear about discrimination but, in the end, I think these experiences have only strengthened us and that they have us heading for a more progressive future.

The exhibit explains how the movement started with Quinton Baker, an openly gay student at what is now North Carolina Central University, who was a Civil Rights pioneer in the 60’s, paving the way for a more forward-thinking Durham. If not for this exhibit, his courageous story may never have seen the light of day.

It also talks about the rise of the lesbian feminist movement throughout the 70’s, how the very first gay Pride march transpired, and about the very first church in the Durham area to welcome members of the LGBTQ community.

One thing I liked about the exhibit was that it mentioned how North Carolina and Durham still have a ways to go in terms of equality, but also simultaneously noted, we’ve made considerable progress in recent years. The Museum of Durham History also has a Story Room where visitors can share their own experiences and the struggles that they may have dealt with growing up in this city.

This remarkable exhibit will be at the museum until January 15th, at which point it will move to the LGTBQ Center of Durham. It will remain on display there for a little over a month before being taken down at the end of February, so if you haven’t been yet, there is still time.

Even if you have no interest in seeing the exhibit at all, just keep in mind that we’re all human beings and we all deserve to be treated as such. It’s that kind of mentality that has enabled Durham to maintain a welcoming and friendly environment for the entire community.

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Josh Factor is an avid young writer, a native of Durham, NC, and a 2016 graduate of Elon University, where he majored in English.

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