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Thu Jun 24, 2021, 12:11 PM

The AIDS activism of the past still has lessons for us today

The AIDS activism of the past still has lessons for us today


The 700-some-page tome is a bracing addition to an ongoing field of research and testimony on AIDS history, a corrective to previous accounts that have elevated some perspectives over others and latched onto only a handful of figures.

Based on nearly two decades of interviews with almost 200 members of the AIDS-fighting organization ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), "Let the Record Show" functions as an oral history and a memoir. Schulman herself was a rank-and-file ACT UP member from 1987 until 1992, a period during which, as she puts it, "a despised group of people" came together to "force our country to change against its will."

The book is also a blueprint. In fact, its primary purpose, Schulman writes, "is not to look back with nostalgia, but rather to help contemporary and future activists learn from the past so that they can do more effective organizing in the present."

ACT UP was successful in part because it used a variety of creative, eye-popping direct-action efforts -- like the legendary Stop the Church demonstration -- to demand the attention of a society that was failing people with AIDS.


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