Celebrating LGBTQ+ Voices of Indiana University

Oral histories from the IU LGBTQ+ community play an important role in documenting the university’s historical record, while amplifying the voices that are so often silenced and under-documented in our history. The oral history clips shared in this blog are just four of the many voices in the IU LGBTQ+ community within the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project. You can search and listen to many more oral histories and read their transcripts by visiting oralhistory.iu.edu.

Gary Shoulders graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with a B.S. from the School of Informatics. He shares his story of coming out to his friends while attending IU in the following clip:

Bruce Smail is an IU alumnnus, as well as the Interim Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and the Special Assistant to the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs at Indiana University. Bruce shares his memories of being involved in the LGBTQ+ Culture Center during his student years at IU here:

Doug Bauder is the former founding Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center at Indiana University. Doug remembers the founding of the first GLBT Student Center at IU and the impact it had in the following clip:

Mara Bernstein is an IU alumna and the Advancement Associate for the IU Libraries. Mara speaks about her involvement with the IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association and the IU Queer Philanthropy Circle here:

If you would like to share your story or obtain transcripts of the oral history clips in this post, please contact Kristin Leaman at kbleaman@indiana.edu.

MEZCLA: Making Little 500 History

Sketch of Mezcla team logo.

I processed a new accession for the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center (La Casa) records, which doubled the size of the original collection. Since this new accession was much larger in size and scope than the present collection, I was able to rework and alter the entire collection that resulted in the formation of new series, such as Administrative, Correspondence, and Publications,  and consolidating old series to new reimagined ones, such as Associations, Events, Subject Files, and General Files. The newly updated collection now has eight boxes total, and it is my hope that it is better presented for researchers, students, and community members who have an interest in the Latino community in Bloomington and at Indiana University. While processing this collection, I came across a folder titled MEZCLA, as well as several sketches of a bicycle with Mezcla stylized across the top, and I was curious to learn what this was exactly. After looking through the folder and searching online, I learned that Mezcla is a Little 500 team, the first Latino Little 500 team to be exact. A year ago, I had the opportunity to look through and start processing the scrapbooks for the IU Student Foundation Little 500 event, so seeing this team, Mezcla, mentioned in the Latino Cultural Center records really stood out to me. Since the Little 500 race is happening again, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a piece of Little 500 history.

Since 1951, the Little 500 bicycle race has been a treasured student and university event and has seen many changes over the past 70 years. Originally, it was a male student dominated event but in 1988 the first women’s race was held. Starting out as a modest event where the bicycle race was the only attraction, in the decades that followed the Little 500 grew into a weeklong event of activities that included, at times, the Mini 500 tricycle race , concerts, golf tournaments, talent shows, fashion shows, and regattas. Over time, the event would also see historical firsts in terms of increasing the representation of underrepresented students and communities in Bloomington and at Indiana University.

Indiana Daily Student April 22, 1996 newspaper clipping featuring Jerry Gutièrrez.

In 1995, the formation of the first Latino team was a significant step in the diversification of the majority-white  Little 500. The event can be costly for teams without sponsorships, so various letters of sponsorship were sent out to companies starting in winter of 1995. Jerry Gutièrrez, a member of the first Latino team, drafted numerous letters asking for sponsorship well into the summer of the following year. Unfortunately, most companies’ responses were rejection letters, but that did not discourage history being made. Some of the original riders who participated in the first race and interested riders included Jerry Gutièrrez, Ben Abney, Derrick Espades, Gus Chavez, Sergio Magan̂a, and Erik Teter. The 1996 race, the 46th annual race, was the debut race of the Mezcla Little 500 team. The men’s team qualified in this race with a time of 02:41.53.1, with a placement in the 11th row. At the race, Mezcla placed 31st and completed a total of 176 out of 200 laps.

Indiana Daily Student April 17, 1996 newspaper clipping of the design for the Mezcla jersey.

In 1998 Mezcla became a student organization with the purpose of providing an avenue for Latino students to participate in the Little 500 race. For the next three years, Mezcla qualified and raced in the Little 500, with their best race in 1998, wherein they placed 12th and completed 195 out of 200 laps. After 2001, the men’s Mezcla team leading riders had all graduated, and it would not be until 2005 that the men’s Mezcla team would qualify again.

In 1997, a group of female students were ready to carry on the Mezcla legacy as the first women’s Latino Little 500 race team. That year the first women’s Mezcla team placed 23rd with a time of 01:11:08.889 and completed 93 out of 100 laps.

The Herald Times April 22, 2004 newspaper clipping featuring Anette Soto, Barbara Alvarado, and Liliana Cortez.

It was not until 2004 that the women’s Mezcla team would qualify again for the race, though the team would go on to compete in nine additional races through 2014, the last time they qualified. The riders from the 2004 team were Josefa Madrigal, Anette Soto, Liliana Cortez, Monica Reyes, Rosa Bonilla, and Barbara Alvarado. The women’s Mezcla team’s best race time wise was in 2005 with a time of 01:08:50, while their best race lap completion was in 2014 with 97 out of 100 laps completed, placing them 16th.

If not for the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 race would have been the 70th Men’s race and 33rd Women’s race. However, the race was rescheduled and is happening once again on Wednesday, May 26 in the Bill Armstrong Stadium.

For more on this piece of Indiana University history – and more – the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center records can be viewed by appointment with University Archives.

The Archives Behind Disney’s Howard: Guest Blog Post by Lori Korngiebel and Don Hahn

The Indiana University Archives had the honor of assisting Lori Korngiebel and Don Hahn in their quest for archival materials on IU alumnus, Howard Ashman, for their documentary Howard. Director of Howard, Hahn is also a film producer who has produced some of Disney’s most beloved animated films, such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Korngiebel, producer of Howard, has worked on several Disney films and served as Associate Producer for Maleficent and the soon-to-be-released Cruella.

We are so pleased to share that Lori and Don were kind enough to answer a few questions about their research process as they worked on Howard!

Can you tell me about your archival research process? What repositories did you visit?

We were fortunate because Howard’s estate had gifted his archives to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Don and I started our journey there and spent days excitedly going through archival boxes, finding hidden treasures from Howard’s life (such as his handwritten notes during the “Little Shop” casting process and an audio recording of Howard talking to the “Little Mermaid” directors, Ron Clements and John Musker).  

After we left the LOC, Don and I traveled to NYC were we interviewed Howard’s friends and family, who were also so generous to share photos and videos with us. So, between the LOC and our F&F interviews, we went back to California with a strong foundation to begin building the documentary.

From there, as we began editing the film, Don and I would do research online, reaching out to the people and places that Howard may have had contact with during his life and career. The Indiana University Archives was one of the places we reached out to when we happened upon Kristin Leaman’s Howard Ashman blog post during our online research.

What are some of your exciting archival finds for this documentary?

We knew that Howard had done interviews at THE LITTLE MERMAID junket in Walt Disney World but after searching high and low we were not able to find any of them. Tragically, the 80s are a black hole of lost video tape archives and we had all but given up. Then, one day Don Hahn received a phone call at the office from a colleague saying they had found an audio cassette from the MERMAID junket that they believed had Howard interviews on it. Well, after literally YEARS of searching, we jumped on it and were over the moon when we heard Howard and Alan (Menken) answering questions. It may not have been video but that audio was like GOLD to us!

Did you find any archival materials that significantly impacted the film in a way you were not expecting?

We were told that Howard had learned about his HIV diagnosis on the same day that he spoke at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. We discovered that the Y did not video tape lectures back then but they did record audio and lucky for us they were able to find that audio. With this discovery we knew we would have to find a way to show the significance of this lecture. No one there knew what Howard and his partner Bill had just been told and it is gut wrenching to listen to the interview with the understanding that he is keeping it together, answering questions and making people laugh all while grappling with this horrible news.

What is the most exciting thing you discovered in the Indiana University Archives?

One of our most exciting archival finds came from the IU Archives! We were told there could be a local interview with Howard when he came to the University to see their production of LITTLE SHOP in 1987. When we received the footage we were THRILLED. Our goal was always to have Howard tell his story as much as possible in the film and there he was in an interview that probably hadn’t been seen in over 30 years. It was amazing!

Why was doing archival research and including archival materials in the documentary so important to you?

This is the story of an amazing man, who during his short time on earth, changed the lives of millions (and continues to do so) through his lyrics and songs. In order to do Howard justice, we needed to ensure that we uncovered every lyric, photo, interview and song so the audience could know the man who created the songs we already love and by doing so, fall in love with him, too.

Is there anything that you want people to know about the documentary?

I just feel so lucky to have worked on the film. Like our audience, I never met Howard in person, I only knew him from his work. But, because of the generosity of Don, Sarah (Howard’s sister), Bill (Howard’s partner) and countless other friends and family who donated their time, love and memories to the film… I feel like I do know Howard now and I am blessed to consider him a friend.

Howard Ashman sitting on desk during 1987 campus visit
Howard Ashman, April 1987, courtesy Indiana University Archives, P0026314

Project update: The Coronavirus Days

In the early days of the pandemic in March 2020, like many archives and special collections across the nation and world, the IU Archives, in collaboration with Sarah Knott (Sally M. Reahard Professor, Department of History) released a call to document the historic moment that we knew we were entering. Inspired by the Mass Observation project in the United Kingdom, our call similarly asked participants to “to keep a diary of living through the crisis in Indiana. Diarists may type or write by hand, draw, compose poems, gather stories and so forth. No stress needs to be placed on ‘good grammar’, spelling or style. The emphasis is on self-expression, candor and a willingness to be a social commentator.” It is important to note that this project is focused specifically on collecting the observations of individuals associated with Indiana University (including the regional campuses) and residents of Monroe County. Nearly one year into the project, we would like to share a few of the submissions we have received and provide a few updates on future plans.

Submissions

To date the IU Archives has received submissions from over 40 individuals ranging from current undergraduate and graduate students at the Bloomington campus, faculty and staff from the Bloomington, Southeast (New Albany) and IUPUI campuses, and residents of Monroe County. Their self-identified occupations include servers and cashiers; students and instructors; nurses and social workers; visual artists, poets, and authors; court reporters and lawyers; contractors and facilities managers. In addition to these individuals, another 200 have signed up as participants in the project and are still actively documenting their experiences.

While the original call for submissions to this project focused on diaries, in practice these take many different shapes including photographs, videos, and text and offer both creative and documentary perspectives. The vast majority of these are in an electronic form, rather than the handwritten form that we might traditionally associate with diaries. A few visual samples are included throughout this post and below are links to some additional examples:

Next Steps

IU Archives will be accepting submissions to this project for the foreseeable future, and, in collaboration with Sarah Knott, we were recently awarded a grant through the IU College Arts & Humanities Institute (CAHI). As we wrote in our proposal, this additional funding will allow us “to expand our reach deeper into historically under-represented communities, most especially among BIPOC faculty, staff, students and community residents. This matters greatly, given the specificity of everyday racialized experience in this country, as well as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on these communities.”

After donation to the IU Archives, staff members accession each contribution with a unique identifier and and record the donor information, including any requested restrictions. For a variety of reasons, many of the individuals who have already donated materials to the project have requested that their submissions remain restricted for a 5-year period or that they remain anonymous with only basic demographic details shared. This is an option that the IU Archives offers participants in an effort to protect their privacy while allowing them to share an honest account of their observations and thoughts.

At this point individual items are routed for appropriate storage. Physical diaries and photographs are placed in acid-free folders and sent to the IU Libraries’ Auxiliary Library Facility for storage in an environment with temperature and humidity controls. Contributions such as websites, YouTube videos, and other material published on the Web are captured via Archive-It, while other born-digital documents such as digital photographs and text files are preserved in the Scholarly Data Archive. Once we move past the collecting phase, this collection will be processed and described in the applicable access points (including Archives Online, Image Collections Online, and Archive-It), and we hope to be able to develop an access portal that will connect all the components of this collection into one searchable interface.

As mentioned, we are still actively collecting for this project. Further information about how you can contribute can be found at https://libraries.indiana.edu/coronavirus-days-archive-story.

Advocating for support for student veterans – the American Veterans Committee Scrapbook

While the IU Archives remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 crisis, I have been digging into the collections available digitally through Archives Online to discover and highlight some of the great artifacts the IU community can explore from the comfort of their homes. I came across a scrapbook put together by a veteran’s group for IU students that was active during and directly following WWII that allowed me a fascinating glimpse into veteran student issues.

The Second World War transformed life at Indiana University in many ways, and these transformations extended into the postwar time as many men came back to attend college and start the next chapter of their lives. Many organizations were established to help veterans make their transformation from soldier to civilian, including a newly formed progressive veterans committee called the American Veterans Committee (AVC), originally formed as an alternative option to what some considered the more conservative veterans groups like the American Legion. The American Veterans Committee, formed at the national level in 1943 and disbanded in 2008, pledged to support veterans of all races and creeds and was notably offering racially integrated committees across the country when other veterans groups were not. Their political agenda included petitioning the local and state government to start or support legislation related to improving veteran support in all facets of life and supporting advocate groups like the NAACP that fought for civil rights and racial equality.

Scrabook page for the 1946-47 school year which includes a resolution concerning AVC policies. The resolution reads: l. As progressive citizens we pledge our active support to any reforms which in our opinion broaden the benefits and security of all people. 2. As progressive citizens we pledge our ative support to help fight bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination against any minority group. 3. As progressive citzens we pledge our active support to fight against all organizations which menace the liberties of the people. 4. We do not identify ourselves with any party, nor do we place ourselves at any point on a political line from left to right. To determine our policy on any issue we will consider that issue and vote our descision in a democratic manner. 5. As student citizens of Indiana University we support the furtherance of academic freedom and building a yet better institution of higher knowledge. We pledge our aid to the University administration to improve in any manner possible the scholastic, and social program of the University.
American Veterans Committee’s Resolution concerning AVC policies for the 1946-1947 school year, AVC Scrapbook, 1946-1949.

The AVC Bloomington chapter offered support to veterans on IU’s campus and in the Bloomington community as a whole. The collection is fully digitized and includes one scrapbook that includes clips of newspaper, photographs, and chapter items from the years 1946-1949, and offers an interesting glimpse of what life was like for veteran students during these years right after WWII.

Black and white photograph of members of the AVC.
American Veterans Committee, from the 1946 Arbutus Yearbook, IU Archives P0034240

Like the national organization, Bloomington’s chapter was committed to supporting all veterans on campus and in the community, regardless of nationality, race, or religion. Their main policies included fighting bigotry, which included a push to bar Bloomington restaurants from discriminating against people of color. They were supporters of the Bloomington NAACP. In 1948, the organization wrote an op-ed to the Indiana Daily Student that outlined their support for national integration of all colleges and to end all college discrimination.

The Bloomington AVC also focused on the financial aspects of IU veterans’ lives. In 1947, the AVC compiled the GI Subsistence Survey that asked 1500 current student veterans about their finances and the support they receive from the government; based on their results, they asked the university and local and national politicians to increase veteran subsistence pay, arguing that veterans were paying more for housing and food than they should be.

Scan of a scrapbook page from the AVC
Results of the AVC’s Subsistence Survey with press clippings, AVC Scrapbook, 1946-1949.

The American Veterans Committee also hosted social and educational events on campus to support their initiatives. In 1947 the group hosted an Autumn Festival informal dance at the Indiana Memorial Union. The AVC also hosted speakers for their members and the general public, including history novelist Howard Fast, sports writer John R. Tunis, and the famed IU professor Dr. Alfred Kinsey right after his release of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male at an AVC meeting in 1948. It was one of the only public lectures he gave on campus after the release of the book.

The scrapbook is a fascinating glimpse into a few of the issues that student veterans faced as they returned from war, adjusted to life back home, attended university, and moved forward in their lives. Aspects of life that affected veterans as they transitioned back into society are deeply compelling to see from the student perspective. Check out the finding aid and the full scrapbook here!