I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte (colubra) wrote,
I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

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Oh. My. God.

So I went and read a bit of documentary evidence about Harvard having basically driven students to suicide by threatening to out them to their families in the 20's.

You should read this too. You should make your friends read this. You should keep this story close at hand.

Because that way, you will always have a good answer to 'why do those queers need a parade?' ready at hand. Without society containing queer members openly- not necessarily happily, but at least knowing they're there and giving them space to be there- we'd have a fuckton more corpses than the one suicide mentioned in this story.

Harvard’s Dark Secret
Secret Court Banned Homosexuals From University 80 Years Ago

B O S T O N, Jan. 8 — The roaring '20s was a time of experimentation and change, yet homophobia was strong in society and its institutions, even at Harvard.
Today, Harvard University is recognized as one of the more liberal institutions in the country, but back in 1920, things were very different.
While doing research on a another story last summer, Amit Paley, a reporter for Harvard University's Crimson newspaper, stumbled upon a file marked "Secret Court Files, 1920," in the university's archives.

The discovery led Paley to 500 pages of documents that described an underground court that convened to investigate and expel gay students.

‘Taint Other Students’

"Members of the secret court considered themselves to be defenders of morality at the university, and they felt the very existence of people who were gay and even those who knew of homosexuality at the university, were some sort of force that would taint other students," Paley said. "I think they considered it some sort of contagious disease," he said.

The witch hunt began when Harvard sophomore Cyril Wilcox committed suicide by inhaling gas in his family's home. When the Wilcox family found personal letters revealing the young man's gay life at school. They implored the university to investigate.

"They pinpointed the ringleader as a student named Roberts, whose father was a congressman," Paley said. "He used to have parties in his room in Perkins Hall with other men from Boston who came in, people dressed in drag, women dressed in men's clothing," he said.

In all, 14 men were interrogated by the secret court. They were pushed to reveal the deepest and most graphic details of their lifestyle as they were tried for the crime of being homosexual.

Seven college students, a dental school student, a recent graduate and four men who were not connected to Harvard were told to leave the campus and Cambridge.

A member of the secret court wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Ernest William Roberts after the congressmen's son and the other men were dismissed.

"The president has instructed me to advise your son to leave the university at once," the member wrote Roberts. "His offense has nothing to do with low scholarship. It is not gambling or drink or ordinary sexual intercourse … the matter is altogether the most distressing thing that has occurred since I've been in this office," he wrote.

Many of those investigated were ruined for life. One of the interrogated students killed himself after his session with the secret court. Those accused passed away long before Harvard's dark secret was discovered, but for a while it seemed the school might never let it come out.

University Balked at Sharing Information

When Paley asked school administrators for the letters, he said they were hesitant to release everything.

"I wrote a letter to the dean of the college asking for permission, and he said "There's no need-to-know basis" and that, you know, there are privacy interests of the students involved, and we don't want to release them to you at all," Paley said.

Stephanie Skier, a leader of a campus gay activist group at Harvard, said everyone should be aware of what happened at the university, even though more than 80 years have passed since the secret court convened.

"I think from any journalistic or historical perspective, it's definitely been brought out, from the, the perspective of clear activism or, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community, it's something that is part of our community that we want brought out, and, and remembered," she said.

It took six months of appeals and extensive research to learn the names of students which had been kept secret by the university in the interest of privacy, but the Crimson eventually revealed the secret court.

Harvard University issued an apology over the incident in late November.

"Whatever attitudes may have been prevalent then, persecuting individuals on the basis of sexual orientation is abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university," said Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard University. "We are a better and more just community today because those attitudes have changed as much as they have," he said.

Skier says statements from university officials won't resurrect the dignity of the victims, or repair ruined lives.

"They should give degrees to the students who were expelled in this process of the court," Skier said.

ABCNEWS' Chris Cuomo reported this story for Good Morning America.

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