Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ+ Communities

queer miami group
queer miami sign
  • Share
By: Ian Maloney

HistoryMiami Museum Exhibit

HistoryMiami Museum honored LGBTQ+ history and commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with the launch of a new exhibit called Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ+ Communities. HistoryMiami is the area’s preeminent history museum, telling the story of Miami’s people and the events that have made those people who they are. Queer Miami ran from March 26, 2019 through September 1, 2019. The museum hosted a special free preview on Friday, March 15, featuring special guest presentations, live music, free refreshments and more.

Queer Miami

Queer Miami was curated by Miami native Dr. Julio Capó Jr. who is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After completing his PhD at Florida International University in 2011, Dr. Capó wrote Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940 and has emerged as one of the few voices dedicated to studying Miami’s queer history, and brought that history to life. “It’s an exciting—and most necessary—time to tell these stories,” said Capó. He was quoted as saying, “One of the greatest challenges in studying LGBTQ+ history is that our lives and experiences are so often purposefully erased from history books and archives. As this exhibit will show, our LGBTQ+ community, of which I am also a proud member, has persisted and persevered in Miami since its inception.” He added “often the national narrative of LGBTQ+ history is told through experiences of people in cities like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, which of course are also very important, but events that took place in Miami helped shape the trajectory of a national movement in remarkable ways. This year, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion that helped launch a new era in gay organizing and reform, I hope this exhibit shows the significance of seeing an event like Stonewall as one event among many of other such moments of LGBTQ+ resistance and empowerment that existed both prior and after that moment.”


The Stonewall Riots marked one of the first times the country’s LGBTQ+ community publicly fought for their rights and they are remembered as one of the seminal events in LGBTQ+ history. In late June 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that served the LGBTQ+ community in the city’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. For the first time, patrons of the bar along with other members of the community fought back and attacked the police who were arresting them simply for being gay or dressing in drag. At the time, it was illegal in NYC to serve alcohol to gays and lesbians and it was illegal to dress as a member of the opposite sex. That night, instead of slinking into the shadows, a riot broke out, the bar was torched and history was made! The fight continued the next night when police refused to release several members of the community who were arrested. A year later, the riots were remembered as Christopher Street Liberation Day and a group of survivors and activists marched from the remains of the bar up along 5th Avenue to Central Park. What started as a few dozen people, grew to several thousand by the time the group made it to the park. The riots and the commemorative march each year grew into the modern Pride movement and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights had officially begun.

Miami's Journey

Queer Miami was HistoryMiami Museum’s featured exhibition through September 1, 2019. Displayed in the museum’s 5,000-square-foot gallery, were topics such as: policing and criminalization, community development, advocacy and activism, immigration and the AIDS crisis, and what the future holds for Miami’s queer community. Visitors were able to see memorabilia from some of Miami’s oldest gay bars, photographs of rallies and marches, archival material from Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign, historical footage and original video interviews from the people involved in creating Miami’s LGBTQ+ communities. Interactive components encouraged visitors to contribute their own story to the exhibition.

The exhibit was the first of its kind for HistoryMiami Museum, which was spotlighting LGBTQ+ communities for the first time. Through their affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, the museum is able to enrich the community by bringing world-acclaimed Smithsonian exhibits to South Florida. HistoryMiami Museum has set a goal to safeguard and share Miami stories to foster learning, inspire a sense of place, and cultivate an engaged community, so an exhibit on the area’s queer history was not only needed, but was important for the museum to highlight. In an interview, HistoryMiami Museum Executive Director, Jorge Zamanillo, expressed how thrilled the museum was to show Miami’s LGBTQ+ community of today and the journey it took to get to this point. The exhibit was unique because the story is still being told and changing every day.


Be sure to check HistoryMiami Museum's website for current hours of operation and ticket prices.

Links to Partners in Article

Things To Do Nearby

Choose a category

{{ctrl.swiper.activeIndex + 1}} / {{ctrl.totalItems}}