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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Listening for a Change: Interview with Joe Herzenberg, conducted by Chris McGinnis

Oral History Interview with Joe Herzenberg, conducted by Chris McGinnis, Nov. 1, 2000.

Interview Number: K-0196. Archived for listening as part of the Southern Oral History Program at the Southern Historical Collection Manuscripts Department in Wilson Libary, UNC-Chapel Hill. The complete transcript is reproduced below.

Listening for a Change: History of Gay Men and Transgender People in the South

These interviews by Chris McGinnis, an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, were conducted for an independent study in the fall semester of 2000 and for the Southern Oral History Program in 2001-2002.

They give a perspective of gay life in the South, with particular emphasis on North Carolina in the 1960s through the 1980s. The interviews chronicle the development of the gay community in the South and explore early gay bars, social events and festivals of the gay community, gay organizations and activism, and places where gay men met and engaged in public sex, among other topics.

Included are interviews with Chapel Hill, N.C., town council member Joseph A. Herzenberg and writer Perry Deane Young. Interviews with Angela Brightfeather and Lily Rose DeVee offer perspectives of transgender individuals.

Joe in 2000, as featured in Out and Elected in the U.S.A. photo exhibit