1950s

The images in this section provide a glimpse into gay and lesbian life in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Flint during the 1950s. The event timeline highlights a number of ways that the gay and lesbian community started to gain some mainstream visibility.

People & Groups in Detroit

This page shows images of gay couples, leaders, and activists in the Detroit & Flint areas during the 1950s. 

Ralph O'Reilly & Ralph Stallings in 1951

Ralph O'Reilly and Ralph Stallings

Prophet Jones

Prohet Jones

Whisper Magazine & Prophet Jones

Whisper Magazine and Prophet Jones

ONE Magazine, June 1954

ONE Magazine, June 1954

Hal Lawson & David Whitney Brewer

Hal Lawson and David Whitney Brewer

Bars & Nightlife

These images show the active bar life for gays and lesbians in Michigan during the 1950s.

Melva Earhart and Betty Underwood

Melva Earhart and Betty Underwood

Melva Earhart and State Bar Patrons

Melva Earhart and State Bar Patrons

State Bar Patrons

State Bar Patrons

Hitting the Hi-Spots Magazine - 1951

Hitting the Hit-Spots Magazine 

Postcard of Andy Karagas

Postcard of Andy Karagas

University of Michigan

Included here is a memo to President Harlan Hatcher about suspected lesbian behavior between two University of Michigan students as told by the university's Dean of Women.

Memorandum from Deborah Bacon to Harlan H. Hatcher<br />

Memorandum from Deborah Bacon to Harlan H. Hatcher

Deborah Bacon

Deborah Bacon, UM Dean of Women 

Event Timeline: 1950s

1950: Lesbian Melva Earhart acquires the State Bar at its original location on Union Street in Flint.

1950: Priscilla Dean headlines at Uncle Tom's Plantation in Detroit during height of city's black drag craze.

1950: U. S. Rep. Clare E. Hoffman of Michigan blasts the employment of homosexuals in government.

1951: Commission appointed by Governor G. Mennon Williams urges harsher penalties for sex offenders.

1952: New state law provides for prison sentences of one day to life for repeat sex offenders.

1953: Ann Arbor native W. Dorr Legg helps found the magazine ONE in Los Angeles.

1954: Homophile publication ONE reports it has 52 subscribers from Michigan.

1954: The Woodward Lounge opens on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

1956: Flamboyant Detroit cult leader Prophet Jones is arrested in his home on morals charge.

1958: Detroit chapter of Mattachine Society established by Hal Lawson, David Brewer and Jai Moore.

1958: Letter to lesbian publication The Ladder says magazine is well received among circle in Grand Rapids.

1959: Detroit vice cop is stabbed while attempting to arrest 32-year-old man on morals charge.

1959: Singer Johnnie Ray is arrested for solicitation at the Brass Rail in Detroit.

Before 1950

1960s