Graduate students research the story of Austin’s first gay-friendly public space – Corridor News
SAN MARCOS – Public history graduate students Amber Leigh Hullum and Railey Tassin joined forces in the local and community history class to tell what some see as an implied story – the gay history of central Texas , especially the Manhattan Club. Located on Congress Avenue, it was Austin’s first gay-friendly public space.
The story uncovered by Texas state students was published this spring in the Travis County Historical Commission. Blog and will be submitted to the Texas Historical Commission Marker included project.
Tassin said they hadn’t originally planned on applying for the historic marker, “But we felt so passionate about the research, and it turned out so well that we wanted to move forward with it. the actual application process. ” Undertold Maker applications open in August, with a November deadline for all submissions.
Tassin and Hullum both said the history class, taught by Dr Ruby Oram, was a favorite and they especially appreciated that Oram endorsed their work. Students in the class are required to work on historical marker apps, but Oram said they weren’t required to submit them. “The Manhattan Club is definitely eligible for the undertold marker program, and I think they have a good chance of getting a marker (pending owner approval). Members of the Travis County Historical Commission have read Amber and Railey’s candidacy and agree he’s a great candidate for the program, ”Oram said.
While the teacher provided the class with a list of potential topics for the Undertold Marker Project, what was not on the list was queer history or any other LGBTQIA related word. “It struck us that it must be a really deep-rooted story,” Tassin said.
“As a queer woman, I want to see the story of my story,” Hullum added.
In September 2020, they started researching using the city’s old directories and newspapers. They reached out to people who might remember places or historic sites in Austin, like dance halls or bars. A requirement for a historical marker, Tassin explained, is that it had to be at least 50 years in the past.
The Manhattan Club did the trick.
The club was a small bar located in the backroom of the Manhattan Deli, owned and operated by David and Florence Robbins. “The point is, the owners were Jewish and they probably understood they were being ostracized,” Hullum said. It was the couple’s third restaurant in Austin. A grand opening was held in June 1957 for the deli at 911 Congress Ave. The premises operated until 1969.
In their blog post, the students write about what gay life was like in Austin, the laws in effect at the time, and how Manhattan landlords accepted gay customers. They interviewed national gay activist Randy Wicker who was able to give them an idea of what it was like to be gay in Austin in the 1950s and 1960s.
Oram encouraged the students to work with the Travis County Historical Commission. She presented them to Richard Denney, vice-chairman of the commission. “Mr. Denney was very helpful. In an email I remember he said, ‘It takes a team of historians to complete a project,” Tassin said. “In public history , we use the term “shared authority” a lot and we talk about stakeholders. It was a great opportunity for Amber and I to practice that shared authority – to talk to all the people who were going to make the final project happen. “
This summer, the two graduate students are working in their future career areas. Tassin is an intern at Kreische Brewery and Monument Hill State Historic Site near La Grange. She researches, reviews documentary material and assists visitors. Hullum spends the summer at Philmont Scout Ranch, over 140,000 acres of land in the mountains of New Mexico. She has been on the ranch’s summer staff since 2016. In addition to the outdoor adventures in Philmont, Scouts can learn about interpretive (or living) history such as gold panning, mining, blacksmithing and mining. burro packing.
After graduation, the two Texas state students hope to work in a museum (Tassin) or state or national park (Hullum), as a living history.
Then, for Tassin and Hullum, get permission from the owner of the Congress Avenue site and submit the request. If this is approved and the city is willing, then Hullum has said that a Pride event will be in the works in June 2022.