Reflecting on the ACT UP Oral History Project

Jackie Stacey, Director of the Sexuality Summer School, talks to American literature and film scholar, Monica Pearl, about her time as a member of the ACT UP Oral History Project in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

The ACT UP Oral History Project is a collection of interviews with surviving members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, New York (a grassroots political group working to end the AIDS pandemic). The purpose of this project is to present comprehensive, complex, human, collective, and individual pictures of the people who have made up ACT UP/New York. These men and women of all races and classes have transformed entrenched cultural ideas about homosexuality, sexuality, illness, health care, civil rights, art, media, and the rights of patients.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on the ACT UP Oral History Project

  1. Hi Monica and Jackie. Thanks so much for doing this.

    A few clarifications:

    We only interviewed a small percentage of the many people who went through ACT UP, NY — 188 interviews over 18 years.

    MIX:NY Queer Experimental Film Festival was co-founded by me and Jim in 1987, but is currently run by a board.

    We were funded by the Ford Foundation thanks to Urvashi Vaid, and after ten years we sold the collection to the Harvard Library in order to fund the feature film UNITED IN ANGER: A History of ACT UP. Harvard has never put the materials up on their site, so we are still operating the website (currently fund-raising to update) The full tapes are available at the NY Public Library and the SF Public Library and at the University of Michigan, thanks to David Halperin.

    I conducted all of the interviews except two: Dan Keith Williams and Maxine Wolfe- Jim conducted these.

    My book is not a memoir, but is actually a history – it is called LET THE RECORD SHOW: A Political History of ACT UP, New York 1987-1993. It is now finished- 700 pages with 60 images and graphics. It will be published by FSG (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux) in May, 2021

    FYI we did usually keep the tape running after the interviews, because people often remember something suddenly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just a further clarification of Sarah’s clarifications. The Harvard money not only paid for the film, but 5 years worth of interviews. Harvard is indeed starting to put the interviews up on line, but it’s very difficult to find and employs a very user-UNfriendly interface: When we update the ACT UP Oral History, it will include the video of all the interviews in their entirety and a large selection of AIDS Activist Video to show people what everyone is talking about.


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