Marking Ohio’s LGBT History
Becki Trivison, Local History Coordinator
Ohio History Connection
During the month of June we are reminded of the importance of LGBT history and culture and we are actively engaged in it all month long. But what happens after June when the Pride celebrations are over? Of course there is LGBT history month every October but how do we sustain this enthusiasm throughout the year and in people’s everyday lives? A seemingly small thing that has a big impact when it comes to preserving history are historical markers and they are excellent ways to celebrate and commemorate the achievements of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people in Ohio and promote education about the issues which still affect the LGBT community today.
The Ohio Historical Markers program began in 1957 and is a program that the Ohio History Connection is very proud of. It is a program that allows local communities to identify, honor and commemorate the important people, places and events that have contributed to their past and share them in a visible way that will last for many years. This is especially important for the LGBT community whose history has not always been visible or “out” and is an opportunity to put Ohio’s LGBT history on the map and make it visible for everyone.
To date, there are over 1,600 historical markers up around the state or currently in production, with more added annually, each telling the story of Ohio’s unique history. The LGBT community is very much an active and vital part of this history and commemorating the individuals, places and events that played a significant role in this history not only educate those who see the marker, but instills an understanding of the diverse, complex, and compelling story of a group who has contributed to the history and culture of Ohio and the United States.
In recent years the Ohio Historical Markers program has encouraged marker applications that feature the achievements of women, American Indians, and African Americans or honor events and places significant to these groups. These perspectives have made the story of American history, and more specifically the story of Ohio, more complete and diverse. But an important group we need to add to this fabric is the LGBT community. There are currently only two Ohio Historical Markers that reflect Ohio’s LGBT history and we are excited to add more.
The first LGBT Ohio Historical marker was installed in Montgomery County in 2009 honoring Natalie Clifford Barney, an openly lesbian playwright, poet and novelist. This marker was sponsored by the Greater Dayton LGBT Center, The Living Beatitudes Community/ Dignity Dayton and the Gay Ohio History Initiative. This marker can be found in Cooper Park on East Second Street in Dayton, the city where Barney was born and lived until the age of ten. The second and most recent marker was installed on June 1, 2017 in Cuyahoga County. This marker commemorates the block of West 29th Street that was home to Cleveland’s vibrant LGBT community and central to the development of the modern LGBT civil rights movement and was sponsored by the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, Equality Ohio, and Ohio City, Inc. This marker can be found at 1418 West 29th Street in Cleveland. Because of their visibility in their communities, these markers are seen by countless people and provide opportunities to demonstrate pride and continued engagement with the local community.
Ohio Historical Marker applications are due annually on July 1. Members of a local community decide on a topic that they would like to commemorate with a historical marker and do the necessary research to draft a short piece of text for the marker, secure a location for its placement, raise funds for its manufacture and then submit the completed application to the Ohio History Connection. Ohio History Connection staff will then work with the local sponsor to refine the marker text to get it ready for production. All historical markers are produced at Sewah Studios in Marietta, Ohio and shipped directly to the sponsors.
For information about the Historical Markers program and how to apply for a marker please visit Remarkable Ohio.