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This collection details records kept by the ACT UP organization committed to ending the AIDS crisis.
2.47 cubic ft.
English .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Act Up Albany (N.Y.) Chapter Records, 1983-1992. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Act Up Albany (N.Y.) Chapter Records).


Scope and Content:

The collection documents the activities of ACT UP, Albany New York Chapter, and other chapters from its creation in 1987 to 1992. The collection consists of administrative files such as handbooks for activists, activism in various chapters, the AIDS Curriculum Lesson for the City of Albany, AIDS education and preventive guides and programs, correspondence, minutes, and papers of the Health Systems Agency of Northeastern New York, Inc., from 1990 to 1991. It also includes several legal documents related to human rights, penal law, and public health law, and meeting notes.

Also included in the collection is a videotape, programs and fliers from Albany and other chapters, workshop programs, a boycott fact package, activism related to prisons and AIDS, board of education policies of Massachusetts, New York, and San Francisco. In addition, the collection includes materials from HIV regional forum, numerous news clippings and news releases, draft plan for HIV/AIDS services, and public comments on AIDS. The collection also includes publications about budget funding for AIDS in New York State, reports and research papers, journals, and newsletters published by other organizations.

The strengths of this collection are the posters, fliers, and other activism material from ACT UP chapters. In addition, most of the materials in this collection are in good condition. The collection's lack of administrative records for the Albany chapter is a weakness.

The inactive records of ACT UP/NY were deposited in the New York Public Library in 1996 and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn also hold materials related to ACT UP activities in New York.

Biographical / Historical:

In March 1987, ACT UP, (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), was formed in New York City by a group of people as a diverse, nonpartisan organization of individuals united in anger and committed to ending the AIDS crisis. They wanted to fight back against corporate greed, governmental neglect, and arrogance of the medical community in the 1980s. ACT UP was formed to stop the national and international stigma and discrimination towards people with HIV/AIDS.

ACT UP is a national and international nonpartisan activist group whose mission is to fight for "an end to the AIDS crisis." The goals of ACT UP's direct action include explicit prevention education (such as the distribution of condoms and sex education in schools), information about and access to treatments for AIDS, an end to discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, including the loss of jobs and benefits, and an "emergency" effort to find a cure for the disease.

Since its inception in March 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in downtown Manhattan, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power grew to thousands of members in more than 70 chapters in the U.S. and worldwide. ACT UP's non-violent direct action, often using vocal demonstrations and dramatic acts of civil disobedience, focuses attention on the crucial issues of the AIDS crisis.

In the late 1980s, ACT UP had many of these demonstrations in front of Wall Street. These included protesting the need for more experimental drugs for AIDS, going into the New York Stock Exchange, and chaining themselves to executive offices. In one instance ACT UP members chained themselves to an executive's office to lower the price of AIDS drug AZT down from $10,000 per year. This demonstration worked, and a few days later, the drug price was lowered to $6,400 per year.

ACT UP also knew how to use the media to the organization's advantage. Not only were the group's protests written about in The New York Times and other print outlets, but members would also attract television coverage to their protests. On April 15, 1987, members went to the general post office, where people were filling their last-minute tax returns. ACT UP knew that there were usually news reports on people with their late tax returns. This was also where the organization's motto "Silence=Death" was coined. Members showed up with black posters with a pink right side up triangle with the motto on it.

In January 1988, an article was posted in Cosmopolitan magazine by Dr. Robert E. Gould. It said that sexual relations between a man who is HIV positive and a woman was not dangerous. The woman could not get infected even without protection. The women of ACT UP did not want this untrue information to be read. The women meet Dr. Gould and demand an apology and for the article to be taken out of the magazine. When he refused to do so, the women of ACT UP got together to protest Cosmopolitan and what it stood for. The media documented the protest. It brought light to the article and the debate surrounding its accuracy.

On June 17, 1989, the Albany Chapter of ACT UP called for the city to distribute clean needles to drug users and reintroduce and pass a homosexual rights ordinance. In addition, ACT UP, a group whose purpose is to educate American youth about AIDS prevention, opened its first college chapter at the University at Albany, SUNY, in 1990. The Albany Chapter was affiliated with the New York City ACT UP Chapter. A central goal of the group was to educate students and young people about AIDS.

Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the Social Justice Center in October 2000.
Processing information:

Processed in 2003 by Gyuok Kim.


The collection is organized into the following series:

  1. Series 1 - Administrative Files, 1989-1992
  2. Series 2 - Subject Files, 1983-1984
  3. Series 3 - Publications, 1988-1992

All series are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Physical location:
The materials are located onsite in the department.



Using These Materials

The archives are open to the public and anyone is welcome to visit and view the collections.

Access to this record group is unrestricted.


The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.


Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Act Up Albany (N.Y.) Chapter Records, 1983-1992. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Act Up Albany (N.Y.) Chapter Records).

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