Gay And Lesbian Archive To Celebrate Pre-Stonewall Activist Meeting In Kansas City | KCUR

Gay And Lesbian Archive To Celebrate Pre-Stonewall Activist Meeting In Kansas City

Oct 8, 2015

A local group is planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a little known but important gathering of gay activists in Kansas City.

The Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America at UMKC wants to memorialize the first meeting of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations, or NACHO. The group gathered at Kansas City's State Hotel in February 1966, three years before the Stonewall Riots in New York City. 

The Homophile Organizations drew activists from across the country, and paved the way for Kansas City-based advocacy groups like the Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom.

Stuart Hinds of the GLAMA says the event was important, but many don't even know it happened.

"Nobody knows that the first gathering of these leaders took place in Kansas City," Hinds says. "And out of that group [came] Kansas City's first gay advocacy group. It's really important to bring that to light."

After meeting in Kansas City, NACHO went on to create a legal defense fund for members, publish a newsletter and organize another conference in San Francisco. Hinds says that, while the organization was very successful at first, it started to fall apart due to conflicts between more radical members of the LGBT movement.

"What happened in gay rights, feminism and black civil rights is that you started to see a backlash," Hinds says. "They tried to push so hard in one direction for change. There was a change towards militancy in all these groups by the late 1960s."

The Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom and its newsletter were established soon after the 1966 meeting of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations.
Credit The Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America / UMKC

After the Stonewall Riots, NACHO continued to hold conferences, but it eventually disbanded in 1970. GLAMA has put together a committee called LGBT-KC to try to honor the group's history.

Hinds hopes to get a commemorative plaque installed near where the State Hotel used to stand at 12th Street and Wyandotte. He says the committee is also looking to hold a reunion event for surviving members of NACHO in October 2016.

"I think it's important to remember that LGBT history doesn't just happen in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles," Hinds says. "There was a lot going on in the heartland of the country, and [NACHO] is a prime example of that."