Over the years, Duncan Teague has kept journals, notes, photographs, programs, poetry and other writings in boxes stored in his garage, snapshots of his life growing up as a black gay activist.
"I was going to go back and read them," he said about keeping the boxes of papers.
But he knew the documents, whether notes from a gay activist group he belonged to or a program from ADODI Muse: A Gay Negro Ensemble, a poetry collective he helped found, were important to recording the experiences of black gay people. He also kept the poetry, journals and other writings of noted black gay poet Tony Daniels, who died in 1998.
"I knew they were important and as I traveled in gay activism and AIDS activism, I knew one thing was not happening, and that was the accounts of black gay life," he said.
Research library expands black gay history archives with Duncan Teague papers
In 2009, Teague donated his collection to the Auburn Avenue Research Library. It includes records of his years from a teen to his activism in Atlanta and nationally in the 1980s and 1990s. The collection also includes Daniels’ works, encompassing personal journals, as well as the records of ADODI Muse.
On Friday, the public is invited to the Auburn Avenue Research Library to view the documents as part of a celebration of the donation including a reception. On Saturday, the AARL will host two panel discussions, “New Scholarship in LGBTQ Studies” and “Social Activism in the 21st Century.”
Kerrie Cotten Williams, archivist and manager of AARL Archives Division, said Teague’s collection is invaluable to see the LGBT activism taking place in Atlanta during the ’80s and ’90s, but also the mood of activism across the country.
Teague was active in such groups as Second Sunday, the African American Lesbian Gay Alliance, AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, AID Atlanta and In the Life Atlanta.
“His collection is local but national in scope. That’s important to understand,” Williams said.
Because Teague was involved with numerous national LGBT organizations, their history is also compiled into his history.
Teague’s collection is divided into three sections: his personal life, including journals from his teenage years; the formation and history of ADODI Muse, which Teague helped co-found with Daniels; and the papers of Daniels.
“He was collecting his whole life,” Williams said, noting that the papers of ZAMI and Aida Rentas, also being kept by the AARL, fulfill the museum’s mission of archiving black history and collecting black LGBT history as well.
For Teague, who is married to David Thurman, it just made sense for him to collect everything throughout his life.
“I don’t think I’m extraordinary. Our history is sitting in boxes, in photo albums. We are all historical characters,” he said.
What made him determined to record his own history, however, was when he read the obituary of James Baldwin, an African-American activist, author, poet and playwright who was also openly gay.
“I read the account of when James Baldwin died (in 1987). It was as if he was paralyzed from the waist down,” Teague said. “They wrote he was an intellectual. There was no mention of his sexuality. And I said, ‘They’ll never do that to me.'”
Friday, Feb. 11
The Auburn Avenue Research Library celebrates the donation of Atlanta gay activist Duncan Teague’s collection with an official announcement, preview and reception from 7-9 p.m. at 101 Auburn Ave., Atlanta, GA 30303, www.afpls.org/aarl.
Saturday, Feb. 12
The Auburn Avenue Research Library hosts two panel discussions: “New Scholarship in LGBTQ Studies” and “Social Activism in the 21st Century.” Panelists will include Duncan Teague, Aretina Hamilton, Mary Anne Adams, Charles Stephens, Michael Brewer, Cheryl Courtney-Evans, Wesley Chenault, Pat Hussain, Jeshawna C. Wholley, and Ruby Sales. 12-4 p.m. at 101 Auburn Ave., Atlanta, GA 30303, www.afpls.org/aarl.
Top photo: Duncan Teague (far left), a founding member of ADODI Muse, Malik M.L. Williams, and Tony Daniels, also a founding member; Daniels died in 1998. ADODI Muse: A Gay Negro Ensemble, is a poetry and performance collective. Teague’s personal historical documents as well as those of Daniels and ADODI Muse are now archived the Auburn Avenue Research Library. (via Facebook)