How ACT UP Did It
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Published in: May-June 2021 issue.


A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987–1993
by Sarah Schulman
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. 736 pages, $40.



BEST KNOWN as a prolific novelist and playwright, Sarah Schulman is also an AIDS historian who was active in the early years of ACT UP. In 1992, she instigated the Lesbian Avengers with several other women. In 2001, she and Jim Hubbard created the ACT UP Oral History Project, interviewing 188 surviving members, which is archived online (at Her latest book, Let the Record Show, draws extensively from the Oral History interviews as well as her own experiences in ACT UP New York. This is her fifth nonfiction book with significant AIDS content, and her scholarship is revelatory.

            Founded in 1987 after a ferocious speech by Larry Kramer during a lecture at Manhattan’s Gay and Lesbian Center, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) defined itself as “a non-partisan, diverse group of individuals united in anger, and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.”

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John R. Killacky, a longtime contributor to this magazine, is serving in his second term as an elected legislator in the Vermont House of Representatives.