The Stage

1980s: AIDS Crisis Emerges

The national political climate shifted to the right with the establishment of groups like the Moral Majority in 1979 and the landslide election of Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The emergence of the AIDS crisis in 1981 and the deaths of so many gay and bisexual men dramatically affected lesbian and gay communities and their political focus. Organizing around health issues at the national level intensified at the same time that ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) led important grassroots actions. Local communities formed AIDS service organizations. AIDS particularly affected African American and Latino gay and bisexual men.

Lesbians of color wrote path-breaking books that focused attention on issues of race. Lesbian feminist presses played an important role, giving new voices a place to express their ideas. Shown here is the cover of and a book review for Audre Lorde’s Burst of Light. The Spring 1988 Firebrand catalog announced “Black poet, Lesbian, mother, and fighter for freedom, hers is a major voice.”

ACT UP demonstration. Photograph. Robert Garcia Papers.
Audre Lorde. Burst of Light. Cover. Firebrand Books Records.
Carla Flanagan, “Recovering from Racism.” Book Review. Firebrand Books Records.

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