1950s - The Civil Rights Movement Begins

Cincinnati, 1920s

Reggie's grandparents

Reggie Williams was born on Sunday, April 29, 1951 in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Cincinnati General Hospital (= today University of Cincinnati Hospital), as second son of Jean Carpenter Williams (1926 -1990).

Reggie with his mom Jean, Cincinnati, 1980s

"I am the second oldest of her nine children. Most of all of us have different fathers. I did not know the identity of my father until I was 16 years old. But my Mother always stressed to us that, because we were all born from the same womb, we were all brothers and sisters. And that we should always protect, respect, and be there, always, for each other. And we have always tried to follow that rule." (Reggie Williams, 1996)

Cincinnati, Washington Terrace, (early 20th century), photo courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center

"My Mother had moved back home, to Washington Terrace, after the death of her husband, where she and her four sisters had lived with my grandparents. This is the same place that me and my six other brothers and sisters had lived until I was nine years old. This was a large housing project in the district of Cincinnati called Walnut Hills.

The section in which we lived was called Washington Terrace, number 85. It was built during the WPA, after the Great Depression.

Walnut Hills was a predominantly Black district, and Washington Terrace, and as well as I can remember, was all Black. Washington Terrace was not like the housing projects we know today. There was no high crime rates, no drug-wars or abuse, or drug-related crime, no drive-by shootings and alike. It was a "real neighborhood and community". Everybody knew everybody. Everyone looked out for each other, and there was a real sense of care and concern for your neighbor. People who lived on "the Hill" as it was called, knew everybody, and everybody's children, parents, and grandparents." (Reggie Williams, 1996)

Washington Terrace 85 got torn down when Interstate 71 was built.

Cincinnati's last two streetcar lines were abandoned on that Sunday Reggie was born:

April 29, 1951!

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The 1950s - History

In the year 1951 Harry S. Truman was President, the U.S. was involved in the Korean War (1950-1953), the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death, color television got introduced...

In 1955, when Reggie was four years old, Rosa Parks (1913-2005) started the Montgomery bus boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white man.

The Civil Rights Movement began.

Black History Month -

African American History Month

1950 - 1959 World History

1950 - 1959 U.S. History

Decade Quiz 1950s

The Sixties - Civil Rights Movement, Black Power and Motown Music

"And by some of the girls of my age, who were fair or light skinned, I was called 'you ole black thang with nappy hair and big lips!' This is the one that hurt me the most. It stayed with me for many years, even more than the ‘sissy’, ‘punk’ names. It wasn’t until the mid-60's, when the 'Black is beautiful' theme became the word of the Black community that I was able to really see my own beauty in my blackness."

(Reggie Williams, 1996)

Reggie always


to dance!

Music always played an important role in Reggie's life.

Reggie with his sisters Connie and Denise

"I have often been asked when did I 'come out', or when did I know that I was gay? And I always have to laugh, and say that I always felt gay. Even if that was not the term used when I was growing up. But, it is really true for me. I have also felt attracted to boys from about age six or seven. And I always liked to do things that were very un-boy like. Trying to cook, bake, and I loved playing with my sister’s dolls. I used to love to comb my mother’s hair."

(Reggie Williams, 1996)

Downtown Cincinnati, 1966

..."One night me and my little group, Odell and Michael, were out on a Friday night just walking around downtown, looking for something to do, something to get into. It was raining and all three of us had on rain trench coats. We had the belts tightly wrapped around our waist as to highlight our asses. We were downtown just walking and talking and acting silly, like the young sissies that we were. And just as we were passing a store window we could see that a very attractive man was standing there. As we started to walk past him he said “what are you three fine thangs doing out here all by yourselves?” We were all so taken and nervously replied "nothing" He said "well why don't you come and walk around the corner here with me". Of course we all said "O.K.". As we walk with him to the corner he said his name was Ted.

So we followed Ted around the corner to where the Greyhound Bus station was, and crossed the street. There was this little bar, a real hole in the wall, and very nondescript on the outside. It was named the 223, which was the address. And so the three of us followed Ted through the front door, and as we entered we stepped into a whole new world. It was like Oz! Inside there were all men, men of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes. Some were dressed as women, some as men with full face make-up, which we learned was called ‘power puff drag‘. There were some that looked like truck drivers and some looked like just your average guy."...(Reggie Williams, 1996)

Withrow High School Choir

Reggie graduated from Withrow High School in 1969.

He studied X-Ray Technology at Cincinnati's General Hospital (now University of Cincinnati Medical Center) and received a degree as X-Ray Technologist in 1971.

1993, with Denise and Lauren at the party Reggie organized celebrating our "Wedding", a demonstration during the March on Washington

Reggie and Odell Black, Cincinnati 1997

Opening of the Reggie Williams Exhibit in Cincinnati , February 7, 2010

1960s History

1963 - August. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. MLK delivers his "I Have A Dream" Speech.

Malcolm X, 1962

February 1965 - Malcolm X shot to death at Harlem Rally in New York City.

November 1960 - John F. Kennedy is elected as 35th president of the United States.

September 1962, President John F. Kennedy Making Frederick Douglas Home a Monument:

At a White House ceremony, President John F. Kennedy signed a bill making the Washington home of Negro leader and abolitionist Frederick Douglass a part of the National Capital Park System and a National Monument. Here during the ceremony are (left to right) Senator Philip Hart (D-Michigan); House Speaker John McCormack; Mrs. Rosa L. Gragg, President, National Association of Colored Women's Clubs; Representative Charles C. Diggs (D-Michigan); Mrs. Mary E.C. Gregory, Chairman, Douglass Trustee Board; and Dr. Joseph Douglass, grandson of Frederick Douglass. September 5, 1962

Bayard Rustin (left)

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was an openly gay man in the Civil Rights Movement. His life has been featured in the documentary 'Brother Outsider'.

1968 - April 4. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

1969 - June 21. Stonewall at Christopher Street, New York. The Stonewall was a gay bar which was raided by police without apparent reason. For the first time Gays resisted and the Stonewall Riots began. Since then Gay Pride Parades or "Christopher Street Days (CSD)" are organized worldwide, often at the last weekend in June. The first march took place in New York in 1970.

1960 - 1969 World History.

Decade Quiz 1960s