A Lesson in Perspective: Trying to Find Evidence of the Annual Reminder Demonstrations at Independence National Historical Park
Written By: Brianna Attamante
The Annual Reminders were an annual picketing demonstration that took place in front of Independence Hall from 1965-1969 on July Fourth. The picketers were members of local homophile organizations along the East Coast. The term “homophile” was used to describe homosexual members of the LGBTQ+ community during the 1950s and 1960s before the language would evolve to that of the present day. With the exception of the demonstration in 1969, these pickets occurred prior to the Stonewall Riots but would be eclipsed in national memory by Stonewall and the subsequent Christopher Street Liberation Day March and Parade.
The Annual Reminders were the subject of my historical research project as a CRDIP member. I came across the demonstrations in a book I had read for background information regarding First Amendment activity at Independence National Historical Park (INDE). Naturally, I assumed that the Park would have extensive documentation on what I thought was an important historic movement, even if I had not known of its existence prior to my research. Surely the Park would have memorialized these events—not only because they were important history for the city of Philadelphia, but also because of the way they demonstrated the significance of Independence Hall in public protest.
They did not. After scouring the archives, there was not a single physical picture from the demonstration. There is also only one digital picture available on the National Park Service’s NPGallery from 1965. Looking through the documents available in INDE’s archives, I was only able to find four documents relating to the Annual Reminders. Less than one document per year. And, one of those documents was a .pdf printout of a material and not the document itself. The remaining documents were a statement of purpose from one of the hosting organizations, a pamphlet handed out at the demonstration, and the permit application from 1967. I was dumbfounded that there was not more, especially considering that local archives had many images and documents from the events.
While this may read as a condemnation of INDE’s archives, it was actually helpful in contextualizing my other work at the Park. Another part of my position is to observe contemporary demonstrations at INDE. As part of my observation, I usually try to talk with an organizer and ask them some questions about who they are and why they are at the Park. I also take pictures of the event and grab any handouts they are giving to passersby. Finally, I’ll write a little reflection paper for every event I attend. Prior to my research on the Annual Reminders, I had no idea what the purpose was of my attendance at these events or why anyone would be interested in the information I was recording. However, as I was creating individual archive folders for each event I attended, I found it comforting that if someone were to do a research project on any of these demonstrations years from now, they would at least have some pictures, handouts, and a first-person account.