Today, May 22, is Harvey Milk Day. And the slain gay San Francisco supervisor’s iconic bullhorn is now on view in a new exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Milk used the now-battered bullhorn at many rallies in the late 1970s. The charismatic supervisor received it as a gift from teamster Allan Baird, and eventually passed it on to activist Cleve Jones. Jones went on to use it to corral support for gay rights and other social justice causes.
Jones, the bullhorn's current owner, eventually donated the artifact to San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society. The organization's executive director, Terry Beswick, says the artifact has near-religious significance for the gay community.
"The bullhorn is one of our icons," Beswick says. "This represents all the struggles since, all the marches, all the protests that we had to stage just to claim our piece of serenity, to claim our piece of the American dream."
Beswick says the Smithsonian is the first major institution to borrow the bullhorn. It was previously used in the Gus Van Sant movie about Milk's life, Milk, as well as the ABC miniseries When We Rise.