Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

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Chapel Hill, N.C., United States
Joe Herzenberg was born June 25, 1941, to Morris & Marjorie Herzenberg. His father owned the town pharmacy in Franklin, N.J., where Joe grew up. After he graduated from Yale University in 1964, Joe went to Mississippi to register voters for Freedom Summer. He joined the faculty of historically black Tougaloo College, where he was appointed chair of the history department. Joe arrived in Chapel Hill in 1969 to enroll as a graduate student in history at the University of North Carolina, and, along with his partner Lightning Brown, soon immersed himself in local, state, and national politics. Although Joe’s first campaign for the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1979 was unsuccessful, he was appointed to the Council to fill a vacant seat and served until 1981. In 1987, he was elected to the Council, becoming the former Confederacy's first openly gay elected official. Joe died surrounded by friends on October 28, 2007. He was 66 years old.

Sunday, September 1, 1985

"Gay-Baiting in Southern Politics," Southern Exposure, Sept/Oct 1985

Southern Exposure, Issue 13, Sept/Oct 1985.

By Joe Herzenberg

After being personally slimed by the hateful tactics of Jesse Helms' political machine during the 1984 Hunt-Helms Senate race, Joe wrote this article for Southern Exposure magazine's Fall 1985 issue. He cast light on how gay-baiting was a tactic used all over the South by the Republican Party in recent elections to scare up votes for its backwards, right-wing candidates.

Joe's article doesn't touch on his and Lightning Brown's own history as the most prominent targets attacked by gay bigots in North Carolina during 1984. He left that to his fellow gay activist Mab Segrest, who wrote a companion piece in the same issue titled "Anatomy of An Election."

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