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A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: Harvey Milk

This guide focuses on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States.

Harvey Milk (1930 - 1978) 

"I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.  And you ... and you ... and you ... have got to give them hope." -Harvey Milk, "You Cannot Live on Hope Alone" speech

When he won the election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, Harvey Milk made history as the first openly gay elected official in California, and one of the first in the United States.  His camera store and campaign headquarters at 575 Castro Street (and his apartment above it) were centers of community activism for a wide range of human rights, environmental, labor, and neighborhood issues.  During his tenure as supervisor, he helped pass a gay rights ordinance for the city of San Francisco that prohibited anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment.

Harvey Milk has been honored twice under President Obama's administration.  First, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.  In 2014, he was honored by the United States Postal Service with a Forever Stamp in 2014.


Selected Library Resources:

  • Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris, eds., An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk's Speeches and Writings, available as an eBook (2013) through Howard Libraries
  • Peter Drieier, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, available as an eBook (2012) through Howard Libraries 
  • Robert B. Marks Ridinger, ed., Speaking for Our Lives: Historic Speeches and Rhetoric for Gay and Lesbian Rights (1892-2000), available as an eBook (2012) through Howard University Libraries 
  • Josh Gottheimer, Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches, available as an eBook (2003) through Howard Libraries 


Relevant subject headings: 

  • Milk, Harvey -- Archives
  • Milk, Harvey -- Interviews
  • Milk, Harvey -- Political and social views
  • Gay liberation movement -- United States


2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony