elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
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elisa_rolle

Jim Kepner (September 19, 1923 - November 15, 1997)

James Lynn 'Jim' Kepner, Jr. (1923–1997) was a journalist, author, historian, archivist and leader in the gay rights movement. His work was intertwined with One, Inc. and One Magazine, and eventually contributed to the formation of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

In a review of Kepner’s 1998 book, Rough News, Daring Views: 1950s' Pioneer Gay Press Journalism, historian William Armstrong Percy III wrote, "the Gay rights movement had three remarkable pioneers. Two—Harry Hay and Dorr Legg—have long been recognized, whereas the contribution of the third—Jim Kepner—has never been adequately documented…" Percy goes on to say “Kepner’s articles (in the book) record not only the past of the gay rights movement but also its soul.”

In September 1923, Kepner was found wrapped in newspaper under an oleander bush in Galveston, Texas, though he didn't find out he was adopted until he was nineteen. That year, 1942, he followed his adoted father to San Francisco, where, wandering around the libraries of the city, Kepner could not find anything objective that focused on the way he was. Later, he would record that he had been "aware of being different from age four." Kepner recognized he was gay and long before most, he didn’t mind. His search for information and then community and culture led him to begin a private collection of gay-related materials unlike anything previously compiled. Upon settling in Los Angeles in the early 1950s, Kepner became an essential part of the emergence of modern gay culture through journalism, writing, activism and pioneering archival work. He became one of the main writers for ONE Magazine. Before falling out with ONE in 1961, Kepner wrote many of the magazines’ articles and served as co-editor of the magazine. ONE Magazine’s documents and Kepner’s research materials formed the beginning of today’s ONE Archives.

Kepner maintained a relationship with ONE throughout his life even as he transferred his collections to his repeatedly re-named archives (Western Gay Archives and then the National Gay Archives and later the International Gay and Lesbian Archives).

Subjects of Kepner’s 1950s writings included whether there was such a thing as a “gay community,” police actions against the gay community, same-sex marriage, social interaction in the gay community and a whole host of other subjects. As he wrote, he collected, and over five more decades, Kepner was able to amass enormous amounts of essential information on gay life in the United States. As HIV/AIDS ravaged thousands in the 1980s and 1990s, Kepner’s efforts became essential as he recorded, memorialized, and documented the vital personal and community response to the epidemic.

Kepner's collection consists of thousands of distinct subject files containing primary and secondary materials such as organizational minutes, newspaper clippings, journal and magazine articles, correspondence, brochures, and other printed and original materials relating to all aspects of the LGBT experience. ONE’s Library and Kepner’s archives merged in the early 1990s. By the time of Kepner’s death in late 1997, the ONE Archives had evolved into the premier source for gay and lesbian research in the nation.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Kepner


Jim Kepner, 1992, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1081963)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)


Further Readings:

Rough News, Daring Views: 1950'S Pioneer Gay Press Journalism by John Dececco Phd & Jim Kepner
Paperback: 494 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (December 8, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1560238968
ISBN-13: 978-1560238966
Amazon: Rough News, Daring Views: 1950'S Pioneer Gay Press Journalism

Rough News--Daring Views: 1950s’Pioneer Gay Press Journalism is a collection of the most challenging and wide-ranging essays on gay life--its political, social, religious, and historical aspects--to appear in the pioneer gay press in America. Jim Kepner's contributions to ONE Magazine, the Mattachine Review, ONE Institute Quarterly of Homophile Studies, ONE Confidential, and other publications, at a time when to produce or possess any such material was judged illegal and subversive, are invaluable to students of gay history, homosexuality and the law, and religious and biological arguments on the subject, as well as for analysts of the progress and goals of the gay liberation movement. It is also a popular reader for gays, researchers, teachers, and journalism students interested in the almost overlooked history of the gay and lesbian movement before Stonewall.

The importance of Jim Kepner's contributions to the 1950s’gay press cannot be overstated. In the author's words, “I shed the apologetic attitudes, explored the meaning of gayness, looked at various social and legal aspects of gay life, and critically analyzed the homophobic views of many psychotherapists, theologians, and others, exploring our history and literature, and covering then-current witch-hunts against gays and discussing how we could define and advance our cause. My articles covered . . . a wide range of gay concerns, generally moving well ahead of the timid or homophobic thinking of most gays at the time (though, as shown here, my own ideas also had some evolving to do).” In Rough News--Daring Views, you'll uncover revolutionary articles and reports on:
the first detailed refutation of claims by a psychotherapist that all exclusive homosexuals were neurotic and could be cured
the first American outline for a class on Homosexual Sociology
the first exploration in the American gay press of the question of Whitman's homosexuality
accounts of the new thinking by British churchmen about homosexuality, morality, and the law, and an overview of religion and homosexuality
accounts of legal battles and a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court
anecdotal explorations of the gay beach, the single life, and gays lonely at Christmas time
explorations of the biological evidence of homosexuality
the early progress of the gay and lesbian (then referred to as “homophile”) movement
an account of the 1907-1909 trials on homosexual charges of intimate friends of Kaiser Wilhelm II that effectively removed moderates from the German Imperial government and set Germany on the disastrous road to World War and Nazism

Kepner's writings from the pioneer gay press in America will help gays today understand where they came from, how they thought about themselves five decades ago, how society treated them, and how gays began to reject the definitions put on them by authorities, and begin the process of redefining gays and their place in the world.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices


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Tags: activist: jim kepner, particular voices
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