January 12, 2022

G. Samantha Rosenthal

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes G. SAMANTHA ROSENTHAL—associate professor of History at Roanoke College and co-founder of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project—for a discussion of her book Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City. She will be joined in conversation by JOAN ILACQUA, executive director of The History Project. 


Queer history is a living practice. Talk to any group of LGBTQ people today, and they will not agree on what story should be told. Many people desire to celebrate the past by erecting plaques and painting rainbow crosswalks, but queer and trans people in the twenty-first century need more than just symbols—they need access to power, justice for marginalized people, spaces of belonging. Approaching the past through a lens of queer and trans survival and world-building transforms history itself into a tool for imagining and realizing a better future.

Living Queer History tells the story of an LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, a small city on the edge of Appalachia. Interweaving  historical analysis, theory, and memoir, Gregory Samantha Rosenthal tells the story of their own journey—coming out and transitioning as a transgender woman—in the midst of working on a community-based history project that documented a multigenerational southern LGBTQ community. Based on over forty interviews with LGBTQ elders, Living Queer History explores how queer people today think about the past and how history lives on in the present.

About Author(s)

G. Samantha Rosenthal (she/her or they/them) is Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of the Public History Concentration at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City and Beyond Hawaiʻi: Native Labor in the Pacific World. They are co-founder of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, a nationally recognized queer public history initiative. Her work has received recognition from the National Council on Public History, the Oral History Association, the Committee on LGBT History, the American Society for Environmental History, and the Working Class Studies Association. 

Joan Ilacqua became The History Project's inaugural Executive Director in January 2020. Most recently, Ilacqua served as Co-Chair of The History Project’s board of directors and as Harvard Medical School’s Archivist for Diversity and Inclusion. She is a member of the New England Archivists’ Inclusion and Diversity Committee, and has a background in advocacy and oral history. She is a graduate of UMass Boston’s Public History master’s program, and earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Puget Sound. In her free time, Joan likes to read queer romance novels and spend time with her wife and two lazy cats.