The woman unearthed the photos 60 years later and sold them on eBay in to a donor who then gave them to the ONE Archives. The images later made their way to the John J.
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Archives and were recently featured on the local news site Philadelphia Citizen. Historians and social media users interested in the story have been searching for the grooms since then to no avail.
It is unknown, however, whether the men lived in Philadelphia, or whether the photos were taken there. Stein notes, importantly, that it was legal for the drug store's photography shop to turn the grooms away all those years ago, and it remains legal for businesses to do so today in much of the U. At the time the wedding photos were thought to be taken, Rizzo would have been captain of the Philadelphia police force and regularly conducting raids on establishments that LGBTQ people frequented, using the excuse of drugs and noise complaints to harass patrons.
Humoresque was the most publicly visible example.
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In early , Rizzo led a raid on Humoresque Coffeeshop that resulted in t he arrest of the owner and 34 patrons , presumably many of them gay, according to The Philadelphia Partisan. But even under these conditions, same-sex wedding ceremonies and rituals were taking place, albeit usually undercover and certainly a long way off from being recognized by the city or state in any capacity.
One such ceremony is documented in the pages of The Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published black newspaper in the United States.
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On April 14, , the paper had as its front page story an article about a police raid on a wedding between two black women in their North Philadelphia home. This was what survival for LGBTQ people often looked like back then: cleverly skirting law enforcement with a wink and a nod that others in the community would recognize.
The men in these recently unearthed wedding photos, if they are still alive, are likely in their late 80s or early 90s. There is presently nothing else known about them or their wedding guests, but regardless, their images shine additional light on a community that was often forced to hide in the shadows. The pre-Civil Rights era, when segregation was the status quo, saw the proliferation of African American house parties in neighborhoods such as North Philadelphia, where black gays and lesbians formed a community.
During the s and s, Rittenhouse Square was the site of informal public gatherings. These gatherings of friends and strangers helped set the stage for the Annual Reminder, the first public protest in support of "homosexual equal rights," which took place every Fourth of July at Independence Hall. Throughout all of these eras, members of the community faced challenges, celebrated victories, and continued to try to blend their lives with those of their gay and straight neighbors.
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