Pride in Pictures 1987: The AIDS Memorial Quilt goes on display

Conceived by San Francisco activist Cleve Jones in 1985, the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt covered the National Mall during October 1987’s Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Ironically, this view is from the National Institutes of Health, for national research was tragically slow in its response to the pandemic. Wikimedia

Pride takes many forms, but no representation is more powerful than The AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The concept came from Cleve Jones, a San Francisco protégé of Harvey Milk, the gay city supervisor assassinated with Mayor George Moscone in 1978. At the 1985 candlelight march commemorating them, Jones had asked marchers to hold signs with the names of people who had died due to complications from HIV — more than a thousand in the city by that point. He and others affixed them to the federal building, in patchwork quilt fashion.

Jones and others were thus inspired to start The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The disease was devastating gay men in particular. Lovers and friends, as well brave lesbian nurses, cared for the sick and dying. Funeral after funeral mourned the victims, some who had family support, but some had no such support, not even a funeral.

On Oct. 11, 1987, the quilt was displayed on the National Mall, in DC, for the first time, during the National March on Washington. It had 1,920 panels. Many of the estimated 300,000 marchers viewed it, as did millions more through news coverage.

To date, too many Americans, too many politicians, had ignored AIDS.

Only the heartless could look away now.

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