3 Replies Latest reply on Jun 9, 2021 10:10 AM by LOC Manuscript Division

    Seeking reasons employees were fired during the "Lavender Scare"

    history fan Adventurer

      On what grounds were federal and state employees fired during the "Lavender Scare"? What happened to the people who were fired for being gay? I asked another specific question about Frank Kameny, but I am also looking for any other records of similar cases. Thank you for any assistance.

        • Re: Seeking reasons employees were fired during the "Lavender Scare"
          Rebecca Collier Ranger

          Dear History Fan,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located 7 file units & 1 item in various record groups or collections that pertain or mention Frank Kameny. All of the records have been digitized and are available using the Catalog.


          We also located 2 file units & 14 items in various record groups or collections that relate to the “Lavender Scare.” Most of these records have been digitized and are available via the Catalog. For more information about the non-digitized file unit, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) at archives2reference@nara.gov.


          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT2. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


          Next, we suggest that you review the article in Prologue (Summer 2016, Vol. 48, No. 2) titled “‘These People Are Frightened to Death’ - Congressional Investigations and the Lavender Scare” by Judith Adkins.


          Lastly, for state regulations and employment practices during the “Lavender Scare,” please contact the various state archives and/or state historical societies.


          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

          6 people found this helpful
          • Re: Seeking reasons employees were fired during the "Lavender Scare"
            Ray Bottorff Jr Wayfarer

            Hello History Fan,


            There are currently over 2600 references to the LGBTQIA+ community in the National Archives catalog. It is possible these records are a part of a larger series or set of records with even further documentation related to matters involving the community -- including matters regarding Federal employment.


            The term "Lavender Scare" came out of the David K. Johnson book, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, published in 2004 by the University of Chicago Press. It is THE history on the subject and provides the most detailed analysis of the events during that time. Public Broadcasting (PBS) premiered the documentary based on the book called The Lavender Scare in 2018. The documentary is periodically rebroadcast by PBS, so check their listings.

            The numbers of Federal employees who lost their jobs are unknown. Estimates seem to vary from a low of 5000 to tens of thousands. The Lavender Scare was wrapped up with the events of the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism. The scare was used as one of the justifications for those events and the firing of thousands of Federal workers. It even played a role in justifying another fear of the era, the Anti-Comic Book Crusade.

            And that number does not begin to count those thousands denied employment in the Civil Service for suspected LGBTQIA+ ties. Even being an ally, knowing someone who was LGBTQIA+ in the Federal workforce and not reporting it could be grounds for termination for that person.


            As to what happened to fired workers, it often resulted in personal tragedy. A few, like Frank Kameny, attempted to fight back. Most though were now publicly exposed as being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, which often led to divorces for those who were married, the loss of child custody, difficultly finding employment (as civilian contractors for the Government also could not employ LGBTQIA+ people), harassment by the public and law enforcement, shunning by family members, and for some, suicide.

            As for records of individual employees who were dismissed from the Federal workforce for being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, their records would be found at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. But there are limitations you need to know before contacting the NPRC. First, you must know the name of the person who was separated from Federal employment. Secondly, only those leaving Federal employment prior to 1952 are available for the general public the view. Those after 1951 are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974 (P. L. 93-579). Even using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) only allows limited information to be released to the public.

            I hope this is helpful! I wish you well in your research!

            2 people found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking reasons employees were fired during the "Lavender Scare"
              LOC Manuscript Division Tracker

              Dear History Fan,


              The Library of Congress Manuscript Division has custody of personal papers and records of non-governmental organizations and you may wish to explore our collections in response to your topic.


              LGBTQ+ Resources in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress is an online web guide highlighting relevant collections and search strategies and would be a good place to start. Feel free to contact Manuscript Division staff through Ask a Librarian for more information about navigating and obtaining access to these collections.


              All the best of luck on your research!

              3 people found this helpful