The exhibit “ONE magazine at Seventy” celebrates the 70th anniversary of the groundbreaking One magazine, the first nationally distributed LGBTQ+ magazine in the United States.
It debuted in January 1953 and was published by One, Inc., the predecessor to the newly rebranded nonprofit One Institute, formerly One Archives Foundation.
The exhibit features original magazines from its 14-year run, audio recordings, rare photographs, and historic posters from the ONE Archives at USC Libraries.
“ ‘ONE magazine at Seventy’ is a rare look at 1950s and 1960s queer life, when, despite having no rights and facing many dangers, LGBTQ+ people established community long before Stonewall,” Tony Valenzuela, One Institute’s executive director, said.
The exhibit is on display at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Advocate & Gochis Galleries on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m. through Nov. 5.
The exhibit is part of the One Institute’s Circa festival, which includes 70 programs during October at locations across Los Angeles in recognition of LGBTQ+ History Month.
“One magazine at Seventy” curators Alexis Bard Johnson, Quetzal Arévalo, and Sela Kerr place the exhibit’s historical ephemera in context with contemporary issues. By connecting these dots, the exhibit spotlights past battles and contemporary struggles that the LGBTQ+ community has faced in its on-going civil rights fight.
“Our exhibition examines themes that One tackled in its magazine that remain pertinent today,” said the curators. “This includes the fight against police brutality, the importance of building community and cultivating joy, and the protection of free speech.”
During its 14 years, One magazine tackled all the hot button topics, everything from gay marriage and the Lavender Scare (“Are Homosexuals Security Risks?”) to law enforcement (“Must I Answer That Cop?”). These conversations took place against the backdrop of living in a hostile society that considered gay people to be “perverts” and “deviants.”
Exhibition materials highlight iconic artifacts from One magazine’s history. For example, the October 1954 issue that became the focal point of the landmark Supreme Court case ONE, Inc. v. Olesen, which was the first in U.S. history to rule in favor of LGBTQ+ freedom of speech and expression.
One magazine was the brainchild of writer Jim Kepner and activist W. Dorr Legg, early members of One, Inc.
Kepner envisioned the publication as required reading for coping with the hostile world and letting readers know they are not alone.
In other words, One magazine was a ray of light in a world filled with darkness.