Historians describe how embracing diversity changed Baltimore’s landscape – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Historians have found a rich LGBTQ history in Maryland, from rural counties to the city of Baltimore.

Preservation Maryland conducted an extensive background study on LGBTQ history in 2020, making Maryland the second state in the nation to do so.

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The document and database is a historical collection of nearly 400 sites related to the LGBTQ community where notable people lived, gathered, and fought for their civil rights.

“Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in Maryland history, said historian Nicholas Redding.

This includes the annual Baltimore Pride celebration. One of Maryland’s biggest visibility events began in 1975 with a small group of activists gathered for a peaceful protest at the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon.

“As we celebrate Pride Month, it’s important to look back and think about the first Pride celebration,” Redding said. “One of them took place at the Washington Monument in Baltimore.”

The neighborhood was also once a central city hub for LGBTQ clubs and bars when the community had nowhere to go.

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“We are seeing this transition of some of these pillars that had to exist when there was no other place to turn to; we’re starting to lose some of them,” Redding said. “Places like Leon’s sort of stand out as survivors of that time period, but you look at something like the Hippo in Baltimore, which was an iconic LGBTQ bar and was lost and is now a CVS.”

Long before these bars or clubs existed, West Baltimore’s jazz scene also laid the foundation for drag ball dating back to the 1930s, according to librarian Benjamin Egerman.

“Around Penn and North, that’s where it all centered. It was also where all the jazz clubs were and that’s where these people often hung out,” Egerman said. “When you go through back issues of the Afro, they actually have footage. You can see what drag was like in the 1930s.”

Egerman said Baltimore was unique in that police did not shut down drag shows unlike Washington, DC. But the city faces other serious struggles then and now with racism, he said.

“There have always been issues around who is considered accepted or normal within our communities and that’s something that continues today, so I think it’s really important to note that that’s part of the history of our city,” Egerman said. “Not just the fight for LGBTQ rights, but also the fight against racism inside and outside the community.”

As decades of masonry have brought us to today, Egerman said the LGBTQ community has always been and always will be a part of Baltimore.

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“This month is a really good opportunity to make the point that we’re not just here now, we’ve always been here,” he said.

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