glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

The Legacy Walk (Chicago)  
page: 1  2  

Mindful that the target audience for an outdoor installation like the Legacy Walk would know little about LGBT history, Salvo and Keehnen also sought to include several historic milestones such as The Harlem Renaissance, the publication of The Well of Loneliness, and the Stonewall Riots. These brief biographical and historical sketches would serve as the core of the text for the eventual plaques.

After several months of steady progress the two joined forces with longtime Chicago activist Lori Cannon to form the Founding Board of the Legacy Project. With the approval of the Northalsted Business Alliance, in October of 2010 the group launched the organization's website ( and "went public" with their plans for the Legacy Walk. A few months later a formal board was established and 501(c)3 non-profit status was granted to the organization.

With the basic elements of the Legacy Project in place, a diverse Selection Committee comprised of seasoned activists and historians was formed. Utilizing an 18-page ballot of nominees from the website, the Selection Committee voted on what would become the first Candidates for Induction in July of 2011. Several months later the organization held a formal fundraiser at Chicago's Palmer House Hotel where the Candidates for Induction were revealed for the first time.

Throughout the project's development, Salvo engaged in protracted negotiations with the City of Chicago's Departments of Law, Cultural Affairs, Human Relations, and Transportation to craft the language of the special new legal framework needed to extend the umbrella of "City-Protected Speech" to the content of the plaques.

Without such protections, the Legacy Walk's plaques would be vulnerable to an anti-gay group's demands to put their own plaques on the pylons, which had been paid for with a city bond issue. The only solution that would permit an independent non-profit to craft plaques that would be insulated from outside challenges was the unprecedented co-sponsorship of the Legacy Walk by the City of Chicago.

Parallel to the protracted negotiations with the city, the Legacy Project sought sponsorships for the plaques that would be part of Phase One of the Inaugural Dedication in 2012. Those donors were identified among several private individuals, organizations, institutions, and businesses--including Levi Strauss, which sponsored three of the plaques. Final edits to the sponsored plaque texts were submitted to an international body of 24 historians for independent vetting and certification.

Once the certified texts were approved by the City of Chicago (as being appropriate for public display to general audiences), the plaques were ordered.

Eighteen plaques were unveiled on October 11, 2012. In addition to Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, the activist who challenged discrimination in the military, the honorees that day included authors James Baldwin, Reinaldo Arenas, and Oscar Wilde, gay icon and politician Harvey Milk, social justice pioneer Jane Addams, congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Puerto Rican activist and educator Dr. Antonia Pantoja, sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey, transsexual pioneer and spokesperson Christine Jorgensen, activist Barbara Gittings, artists Keith Haring and Frida Kahlo, civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin, physician and founder of the Women's Naval Reserves Dr. Margaret Chung, dance icon Alvin Ailey, the Two Spirit People of the Native American tribes, and Alan Turing, the man whose tragic story inspired the Legacy Walk.

The throngs that crowded the street for the unveiling included several visiting dignitaries such as Dr. Wilhelmina Perry, the surviving partner of Dr. Pantoja; and Walter Naegel, the surviving partner of Bayard Rustin. Other special guests in attendance included Michael Bedwell, executor of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich's estate and two of Matlovich's nieces; Nathen Steininger, a representative of the Two Spirit People; Dr. Chung's biographer, Dr. Judy Tzu-Chun Wu; principal dancer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Vernard Gilmore; and Anne L. Moore representing Kay Lahusen, the surviving partner of Barbara Gittings.

Phase Two of the Legacy Walk's installation will take place on National Coming-Out Day in 2013, completing the initial 34 available slots on the street. In 2014 the Legacy Project will begin to rotate the plaques into an indoor Visitors' Center that will open in the fall of that year. Every year on National Coming-Out Day approximately one-half of the plaques will move to make room for the incoming class so that the outdoor exhibit will remain dynamic, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to the only museum walk of its kind in the world.

In the spring of 2013, the Legacy Project Education Initiative with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance will be launched in order to bring the knowledge gained from years of Legacy Project development directly to students who belong to the Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in Illinois High Schools.

Customized lesson plans, study guides, discussion questions, multi-media overviews, and field trips to see the Legacy Walk in person will be brought together as after-school activities aimed at redressing the ignorance of glbtq history in schools. This ignorance contributes not only to anti-gay bullying, but also to the social isolation and cultural marginalization experienced by glbtq teenagers.

The Legacy Walk, the Education Initiative--and an eventual museum--are designed to work together to fulfill the Legacy Project's stated mission to "Inform, enlighten, inspire and foster an appreciation for the many roles Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people have played in the advancement of world history and culture."

Owen Keehnen

  <previous page   page: 1  2    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts

   Related Entries
social sciences >> Overview:  Chicago

The vigorous Midwestern metropolis of Chicago has been a center of gay and lesbian community and organizing since the early part of the twentieth century.

literature >> Overview:  The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s, included several important gay and lesbian writers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Marches on Washington

Marches on Washington in support of the rights of glbtq people have been a significant part of the modern movement for equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Native Americans

A social role for individuals who crossed or mixed male and female characteristics was one of the most widely distributed institutions of native North America.

social sciences >> Addams, Jane

American reformer, social worker, peace activist, and Nobel Laureate Jane Addams is remembered as the founder of Hull House in Chicago, but her involvement in same-sex relationships has consistently been hidden or minimized by biographers.

arts >> Ailey, Alvin

African-American dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey celebrated his heritage and translated his pain into art.

literature >> Arenas, Reinaldo

Persecuted for his homosexuality by the Castro government he had once championed, Cuban novelist, essayist, and poet Reinaldo Arenas challenged all types of ideological dogmatism.

literature >> Baldwin, James Arthur

James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.

arts >> Barcelona Monument

The gay monument in Barcelona, dedicated in March 2011, commemorates the sufferings of glbtq people.

arts >> George Segal's Gay Liberation

Pop sculptor George Segal's "Gay Liberation" (1980) was the first piece of public art commemorating the struggle of glbtq people for equality.

social sciences >> Gittings, Barbara

A pioneer in the American gay rights movement, Barbara Gittings worked tirelessly within the American Library Association to make material with glbtq content more accessible to the reading public.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.

arts >> Haring, Keith

In his all-too-brief lifetime, gay American artist Keith Haring produced simple yet sophisticated images that reached a worldwide audience and transcended differences of race, nationality, gender, age, and sexual orientation.

arts >> Homomonument

Amsterdam's Homomonument is one of the world's foremost public memorials acknowledging the persecution endured by gay men and lesbians during World War II and throughout history.

social sciences >> Jones, Cleve

Activist Cleve Jones is best known as the originator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, but his life as a gay man has always been firmly interwoven with his life as a political organizer.

social sciences >> Jordan, Barbara

Legislator and educator Barbara Jordan gained national prominence as a member of the United States Congress during the Watergate hearings, but the deeply closeted lesbian did not speak out for glbtq rights.

arts >> Jorgensen, Christine

Actress, singer, and writer Christine Jorgenson was not the first male-to-female transsexual to undergo sex reassignment surgery, but the publicity surrounding her case enabled her to educate the public about the differences between homosexuality, transvestism, and transsexualtiy.

arts >> Kahlo, Frida

Bisexual Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was a masterful exponent of cross-dressing, deliberately using male drag to project power and independence.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.

arts >> Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation

New York City's Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of explicitly gay art.

social sciences >> Matlovich, Leonard P., Jr.

By challenging the United States Air Force's ban and gay and lesbian service members, Leonard P. Matlovich, Jr. became one of the glbtq community's most visible activists in the 1970s.

social sciences >> Milk, Harvey

Harvey Milk, among the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall, making him the American gay liberation movement's most visible martyr.

arts >> Schwules Museum [Gay Museum]

Berlin's Schwules Museum [Gay Museum] is a private institution dedicated to preserving, exhibiting, and discovering homosexual history, art, and culture.

social sciences >> Silver, Nate

Analyst Nate Silver first came to public attention in 2008 when he correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential election in 49 out of 50 states and forecast accurate results for all of the 35 senate races.

social sciences >> Stonewall Riots

The confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 mark the beginning of the modern glbtq movement for equal rights.

social sciences >> Turing, Alan

One of the greatest scientists of his generation, computer pioneer Alan Turing was also a victim of cold war homophobia.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.


Baim, Tracy. "LGBT 101: Chicago Legacy Project Launches." Huffington Post (October 4, 2012):

Ihejirika, Maudlyne. "Outdoor Museum on North Side Highlights Gays." Chicago Sun-Times (October 9, 2012):

Maxwell, Carrie. "Legacy Walk to Transform Halsted Street into a Walking Museum." Windy City Times (June 8, 2011):

"Outdoor Museum Is Symbol of Pride." (October 11, 2012):!/on-air/as-seen-on/Outdoor-Museum-is-Symbol-of-Pride/173768731

Peregrin, Tony. "History Comes to Halsted." (September 25, 2012):,0,1452183.story

Prossnitz, Lindsay. "Public Tribute to LGBT History Makers Comes to North Halsted Street." Chicago Tonight (October 11, 2012):

Salvo, Victor. "Dead Ends and Discoveries: The Search for Our GLBT Ancestors." Windy City Times (June 8, 2011):


    Citation Information
    Author: Keehnen, Owen  
    Entry Title: The Legacy Walk (Chicago)  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2012  
    Date Last Updated October 18, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2012 glbtq, Inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2012 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.