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SF Heritage’s first ‘Academic in Residence’ researches the Sexual Freedom League in the Bay Area

From July 25 through August 14, 2022, San Francisco Heritage is hosting its first academic-in-residence, Heritage University professor Blake Slonecker (He/Him), at our Doolan-Larson Residence, located on the iconic corner of Haight & Ashbury streets.

Prof. Blake Slonecker.

Through Slonecker’s three-week residency, SF Heritage is supporting his archival research in the Bay Area for his project on the broad political agenda of the Sexual Freedom League (SFL), originally founded in New York City in 1963. The group, which went on to establish largely independent local chapters in several other states in the midwest and west coast, played a dynamic role in the Bay Area’s sexual revolution of the 1960s.

While much of the literature about the SFL focuses on the group’s work establishing nude beaches and organizing nude parties in California, its chapters were engaged in a wide range of political issues related to sexual liberation, including abortion access, LGBTQ rights, women’s liberation, contraception, pornography, religious culture, and natural childbirth, among others. Slonecker’s research seeks to rediscover this far-reaching activist history, and he will explore archival materials available at UC Berkley’s Bancroft Library and the Stanford University Library, along with digitized print runs of the Bay Area’s major underground newspapers.

San Francisco is really ground zero for this type of research…I couldn’t do this work without being here.

Blake Slonecker
Excerpt from issue of Sexual Freedom: journal of the San Francisco Sexual Freedom League, Inc. vol. 1, #8, 1971: Group Sex. Leo Frank, Margo aka Margo, Frank Esposito Rila, Sally Gearhart Rev. Jefferson Fuck, William Monie illustrations, Colyer Dupont, Steve Greene, Darby Holmes, Cecily Burke, Poland, poster.

Slonecker has written frequently on the intersections between the varied social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, including the civil rights and student movements, gay and women’s liberation, environmentalism and pacifism. Building from his University of North Carolina dissertation (2009), Slonecker’s first book, A New Dawn for the New Left (2012), examined the utopian thread that runs through the political and cultural radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on the intertwined histories of the Liberation News Service, the Montague Farm and Packer Corners communes, and the antinuclear movement.

“Sexual Freedom League chapters across the Bay Area embodied intersections between the counterculture and political activism during the 1960s, and have long been my overarching scholarly concern,” Slonecker told SF Heritage. “San Francisco is really ground zero for this type of research, with archives at UC Berkeley and Stanford being the main storehouse for organizational records and adjacent archives – I couldn’t do this work without being here. And the spirit of Doolan-Larson has already informed my writing during my first days in Haight-Ashbury!”

San Francisco Heritage first launched its pilot artist-in-residency program in the fall of 2020 with visual artist Jeremy Fish, and has since hosted musicians, choreographers, non-profit organizations, and journalists in residence.

“This first Academic-in-Residence experience was made possible through a partnership between SF Heritage and Northwestern University San Francisco, which is organizing a Counterculture Conference from September 30 to October 1, 2022,” said Karalyn Monteil, President & CEO of SF Heritage.

Haight-AshburyDoolan-Larson BuildingAIR

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