On December 12th, 1999, CLAGS proudly hosted the eighth annual David R. Kessler lecture, honoring John D’Emilio, independent historian, activist, and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In a gala affair at the Casa Italiana on Columbia University’s campus, a crowd of more than 200 people gathered to recognize John D’Emilio’s achievements.
D’Emilio’s lecture, entitled Wrestling with Rustin: Or The Left Will Rise Again, Maybe, presented an in-depth consideration of the process of writing a biography of Bayard Rustin, the African-American civil rights leader and Gandhian activist who organized the historic 1963 March on Washington (excerpts from the talk are presented on the next two pages). D’Emilio’s lecture was preceded by three testimonials from Lisa Duggan (New York University), Allan Bérubé (community-based scholar), and Urvashi Vaid (the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force).
The Kessler lecture was established by David R. Kessler, a San Francisco-based pscyhiatrist and activist, to honor individuals who have made, in Kessler’s words, “substantial contributions to the expression or understanding of gay and lesbian life.” The invited lecturers are chosen by a special committee drawn from the CLAGS Board of Directors. Previous recipients include Joan Nestle, Edmund White, Barbara Smith, Monique Wittig, Esther Newton, Samuel Delany, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.