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50 Years/50 Collections: Larry Bagneris and the Double Fight for Civil & LGBTQ Rights

Larry Bagneris speaking at Houston Gay Pride Week, circa 1980s.

Amistad has continuously expanded our LGBTQ collections over our fifty year existence. The donation of the Larry Bagneris papers, which was acquired in 2011, placed us closer to the goal of developing a large holding of LGBTQ materials. The Amistad Research Center houses the papers of civil rights and gay rights activist Larry Bagneris, Jr. This collection documents the fight for LGBTQ rights in the South and in Washington D.C. The bulk of the collection consists of memorandums, thank you notes, photographs and news clippings. The volume of materials reflects Bagneris’ contributions to a variety of organizations over a span of 30+ years, and reveals his dedication to fighting for gay rights on the local and national level.

Lawrence “Larry” Bagneris was born in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward on September 15, 1946, and is the brother of playwright Vernel Bagneris. A lifelong activist, he protested the Jim Crow policies of segregation by staging sit-ins at department stores while a student at St. Augustine High School. In 1963, he served as a delegate for the National Conference for International Justice in Memphis. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Xavier University in New Orleans and studied political science. He also remained politically active in his college years and became the first African American to serve as the Vice Chair of the Young Democrats of New Orleans.

Larry Bagneris campaign card for Houston Gay Political Caucus president, 1980.

Upon graduating from Xavier University, Bagneris began working with the Washington National Insurance Co. and moved to Houston, Texas. The earliest correspondence in the collection comes from his work with the company. Another portion of Bagneris’ papers highlights his involvement with the Houston Gay Political Caucus (now the Houston GLBT Political Caucus), where he helped organize the city’s first Gay Pride Parade. He was later elected to serve as President of the organization and, while acting as President, attended the 1980 Democratic National Convention as the first openly gay delegate from Texas. He would remain in Houston until 1987 when he returned to New Orleans. Bagneris worked

Flyer for Harvey Milk memorial candlelight service, 1978.

in several other organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the NO/AIDS Task Force. He organized various marches on Washington demanding civil rights for LGBTQ people.

After retiring from the Washington National Insurance Company, Bagneris continued to focus on politics and ran (although unsuccessfully) for New Orleans City Council and Louisiana State Representative. Since 1999, he has served as the Executive Director of New Orleans Human Relations Committee. The finding aid for the Larry Bagneris papers can be found here.

Images from the Larry Bagneris papers. Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.

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