Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States

This guide offers a history of various movements by citizens in the United States to gain political and social freedom and equality. It highlights resources available through the library and also offers a list of current civil rights organizations.

Harvey Milk (1930 - 1978)

"I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.  And you ... and you ... and you ... have got to give them hope." -- Harvey Milk, "You Cannot Live on Hope Alone" speech

When he won the election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, Harvey Milk made history as the first openly gay elected official in California, and one of the first in the United States.  His camera store and campaign headquarters at 575 Castro Street (and his apartment above it) were centers of community activism for a wide range of human rights, environmental, labor, and neighborhood issues.  During his tenure as supervisor, he helped pass a gay rights ordinance for the city of San Francisco that prohibited anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment.

Harvey Milk has been honored twice under President Obama's administration.  First, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.  In 2014, he was honored by the United States Postal Service with a Forever Stamp in 2014.

Library Resources:

Library Special Collections

  • Carol Ruth Silver Collection 1967-1972, National Equal Justice Library
    • Carol Ruth Silver was a fellow supervisor and colleague of Harvey Milk.  Her these materials include papers from her time working closely with fellow supervisor Harvey Milk and Georget Moscone including progressive legislative reform, and co-sponsoring an ordinance with Harvey Milk, which prohibited anti-gay discrimination in San Francisco.

Relevant subject headings:

  • Milk, Harvey -- Archives
  • Milk, Harvey -- Interviews
  • Milk, Harvey -- Political and social views
  • Gay liberation movement -- United States

Harvey Milk

2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient