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50 Years/50 Collections: Impact and the Visibility of New Orleans’ LGBTQ Community

The Impact Collection, located at the Amistad Research Center, is comprised mainly of LGBTQ newspapers from around the United States that were received by the Impact newspaper office in New Orleans as part of an exchange program. Impact donated the collection to the Center in 1993. Housed within Amistad’s library, the Impact Collection includes 131 different periodical titles dating from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. The remaining materials are a separate archival collection, which includes correspondence, press releases on gay and lesbian issues, programs, as well as information on Men of Color, an organization of gay African American men.

The collection offers a glimpse into local gay and lesbian markets and events and news across the country. The newspapers reflected the high visibility garnered by white males within the gay press and community, but the contributions and presence of people of color and women were not entirely marginalized. Publications in the collection such as BLK: the National Black Lesbian and Gay Newsmagazine, Curve: the Lesbian Magazine, Black Lace, and B-Max addressed silences in mainstream gay newspapers related to women and people of color.

The newspapers were not limited to reporting on gay culture but provided insight into the broader popular culture which, oftentimes, was influenced by queer cultural practices. LGBTQ social movements that focused on civil rights and AIDS were widely featured including advocacy against discrimination and violence faced by gay Americans. The largest runs of newspapers are from the Washington Blade, Wisconsin Light, Seattle Gay News, and Impact.

A pamphlet on the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at UNO.

Impact was a New Orleans-based newspaper that focused on topics of interest to the gay and lesbian community. The first issue was published in September of 1977 and was a small eight page periodical. It advertised itself as “New Orleans’ only home owned and operated gay publication.” Roy Leston was its publisher, with Gary Martin as managing editor and Larry Rogers and Will Koolsbergen as contributing editors. The newspaper advertised local businesses that catered to a gay clientele and offered political editorials and opinion pieces.

No official history of Impact exists and its significance to the New Orleans and even the national gay community has yet to be analyzed. Leston explained, in a letter to readers in the October 1977 issue, that the idea for Impact came from a visit to Northern cities where he witnessed organized gay communities with publications that aired their views. Leston noticed that this type of solidarity and voice was lacking in the South and more specifically New Orleans. He had hoped that Impact would fill these voids.

Impact was published, under variant titles, until August 2000 when it was bought by Window Media, which merged the paper with Atlanta’s Southern Voice. A list of the LGBTQ newspapers can be found here and the accession record for the collection is here.

Images from the Impact collection. Images from the Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.

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