ACT UP/San Francisco Oral History Project

Beginning in the summer of 2017, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society will chronicle and publicize the history of San Francisco’s AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP/San Francisco) through a wide-scale oral history project.

The project also aims to foster dialogue between ACT UP veterans and younger activists mobilizing in the age of Trump. The GLBTHS will train young people, ages 18-29, to conduct oral histories with former ACT UP members and actively shape project outcomes. Through a variety of public events, including roundtable conversations and listening parties, we plan to draw on the history of ACT UP/San Francisco to inform contemporary resistance.

Project outcomes, from 2017-2019, include:

  • Oral histories with at least 40 former members of ACT UP/San Francisco
  • An exhibit at the GLBT Museum incorporating high-quality radio documentary-style “audio portraits,” photos, and other materials
  • A multi-media web-based component
  • A series of culminating events offering opportunities for dialogue and debate

Through oral history recordings, we will document ACT UP/San Francisco’s legacy of protest and politics — as well as the unique artistic and sexual cultures fostered through the larger constellation of organizations and cultural productions of which it was a part: AIDS Action Pledge; Mobilization Against AIDS; SANOE; Queer Nation/San Francisco; Boy With Arms Akimbo; Bad Cop/No Donut; Diseased Pariah News; and Transgender Nation, among others.

Project Director: Joey Plaster

Joey Plaster is an oral historian and doctoral candidate in American Studies at Yale University. The recipient of the American Historical Society’s Allan Bérubé Prize for work in public history, he has designed projects that interpret oral histories in relation to neighborhood gentrification and conflict, engage queer homeless youth activists in documenting their community’s history, and analyze pre-gay liberation college life through interactive online platforms.


Interested in sharing your story or volunteering? Contact Joey Plaster at

Project Staff:

  • GLBTHS Executive Director, Terry Beswick
  • Head of the GLBT Museum Working Group: Elisabeth Cornu
  • GLBTHS Archivist: Joanna Black

Project Advisors:

  • Amy Sueyoshi, Associate Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University
  • Marc Stein, Professor of History at San Francisco State University
  • Gerard Koskovich, public historian formerly active in ACT UP/San Francisco, Queer Nation/San Francisco, and Bad Cop/No Donut.
  • Laura Wexler, Professor of American Studies and Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University


This project is made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit