“The making of history is not a project that is relegated only to those in the academy, those who do the work of observing our lives and attending to our voices from a distance. History is made through the living and the telling of our lives. It is made when we lift up our individual and collective lives.”
—Darnell Moore, November 12, 2011
The Queer Newark Oral History Project (QNOHP) was founded in the summer of 2011 by Darnell Moore, an activist and writer and the first chair of the City of Newark’s Advisory Commission on LGBTQ Concerns, Beryl Satter, a history professor at Rutgers University-Newark, and Christina Strasburger, the administrator of the Departments of History and African American and African Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. Bringing together Newark’s LGBTQ activists, high school students, artists, church leaders, professors, administrators and university staff, Moore and Satter convened a series of focused discussions with the goal of developing an initiative to collect and preserve the history of LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming communities in Newark. The term “queer” was chosen for the name of the project to showcase the resilience of an often-invisible population of Newarkers whose lives reflected sexual and gender diversity, whether or not they adopted LGBTQ identities.
The project has been marked by a threefold commitment to public programming, academic research, and the development of a publically accessible archive of oral history interviews and documents concerning the rich history of LGBTQ Newark. In its initial year, the QNOHP steering committee developed a set of principles and planned a one-day conference, “Queer Newark: Our Voices, Our Histories,” held at the Paul Robeson Campus Center at RU-N in November of 2011. The conference celebrated the complex experiences of three separate generations of LGBTQ Newarkers. In the fall of 2014, in partnership with Yendor Productions, QNOHP presented a second major public program, entitled “Sanctuary: A History of Queer Club Spaces in Newark.” This month-long series of events, included an art exhibition mounted in a downtown Newark high-rise building; a poetry reading; and a panel discussion with organizers, performers, and participants of Newark dance clubs, ballroom houses, and bars from the 1960s to the 21st century. The 2011 and 2014 programs were introduced by Newark mayors Cory Booker and Mayor Ras Baraka, respectively; they attracted hundreds of non-Rutgers community members onto our campus and drew significant media attention, including a lengthy feature in the Star-Ledger and a segment on WGBO radio (88.3 FM). Both major programs, as well as other panel discussions sponsored by the QNOHP on topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention and the history of Newark’s ballroom scene, incorporated the work of community-based artists, writers, and filmmakers.
Project staff have begun recording interviews with queer Newarkers about their lives. They have also conducted extensive research in manuscript and periodical collections across the region to gather information about Newark’s LGBTQ past. They created an extensive, public bibliography of rare primary sources and historical studies about LGBTQ Newark; created and distributed a historical timeline of queer club spaces in Newark; and published both traditional peer-reviewed scholarship and online public history.
In 2015, the QNOHP received a Chancellor’s Seed Grant to conduct, record, and transcribe oral history interviews with LGBTQ residents of Newark. In Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, the QNOHP organized two oral history training workshops for RU-N faculty, staff, students and community members to give them essential skills in oral history as a method. This website was created to make the oral history interviews available to students, researchers, and community members.
The Queer Newark Oral History Project (QNOHP) is community-based and community-directed. We are committed to inclusivity and access.
For more information regarding the QNOHP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.