Annual Reminders, 50th Anniversary

Click here for information about the block party on July 5.

picket plaqueAnnual Reminder Logo 2015Philly Pride, together with other groups in our community, will be remembering and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1965 LGBT picketing at Independence Hall, and will be making it the centerpiece of our 2015 PrideDay Gay Pride Parade and Festival, June 14, 2015.  Just a short three weeks later the Independence Hall picket will be reenacted on  Saturday, July 4, 2015, and we will have a special event, the Annual Reminders block party, on Sunday, July 5, 2015, in the heart of the gayborhood. HISTORY:  On July 4, 1965, and for the next four years, gay rights activists gathered outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia carrying picket signs and demanding legislation that would secure the rights of LGBT Americans. Referencing the self-evident truth mentioned in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” the activists called for legislative changes that would improve the lives of American homosexuals. Activist Craig Rodwell conceived of the event following an April 17, 1965 picket at the White House led by Frank Kameny and members of the New York City and Washington, D.C. chapters of the Mattachine Society, Philadelphia’s Janus Society and the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitus. The groups operated under the collective name East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO). It was called the “Annual Reminder” to remind the American people that a substantial number of American citizens were denied the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” picket 1964 Enthused by Rodwell’s idea, ECHO put together the first Reminder picket in just over two months. Thirty-nine people attended the first picket, including veteran activists Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Kay Tobin. As with the Washington, D.C. picket Kameny insisted on a strict dress code for participants, including jackets and ties for the men and dresses for the women. Kameny’s goal was to represent homosexuals as “presentable and employable.” pride 11early pride 9 The pictures to the left show veteran activist Barbara Gittings (wearing the required dress) at the Annual Reminder picket.  The second picture is Barbara speaking at the first Philadelphia gay pride event in 1972.  Barbara was honored when Locust Street was renamed “Barbara Gittings Way.”

As a gay pride organization, Philly Pride tracks its history to the New York Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969, and the first gay pride parade to memorialize that event one year later, June 28, 1970 (which is why gay pride events are typically held in June). The sequence of the Annual Reminders was as follows:
annual reminders collageJuly 4, 1965
July 4, 1966
July 4, 1967
July 4, 1968
The Stonewall Riots, June 28, 1969
July 4, 1969

Therefore, the last Annual Reminder took place less than a week after the June 28 Stonewall riots. Rodwell received several telephone calls threatening him and the other New York participants, but he was able to arrange for police protection for the chartered bus all the way to Philadelphia. About 150 people participated. The Annual Reminders were commemorated in 2005 by the placement of a Pennsylvania state historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at 6th and Chestnut Streets where it is viewed by thousands of visitors daily:  “these [Annual Reminders] and the Stonewall riots of 1969 . . .  transformed a small national campaign into a civil rights movement.”
Click here for information about the block party on July 5.