Scope and Content of Collection
Language of Material:
SJSU Special Collections & Archives
Title: Ted Sahl Social Justice Collection
Identifier/Call Number: MSS.2010.10.25
(33.93 linear feet)
Date (inclusive): 1970-2011
Abstract: The Ted Sahl Social Justice Collection represents thirty years of the work of local photojournalist Theodore (Ted) Sahl documenting
social, political, and cultural events in the Bay Area.
The collection is open for research.
Copyright has been assigned to the San Jose State University Library Special Collections and Archives. All requests for permission
to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the SJSU Special Collections and Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to
include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. Copyright restrictions also
apply to digital reproductions of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.
Ted Sahl Social Justice Collection, MSS-2010-10-25, San Jose State University Library Special Collections and Archives.
Collection processed by Jeannette Eaton. Finding aid EAD encoded by Mary Alexander. Reviewed by Danelle Moon. Accruals added
and collection edited and reprocessed by Victor Rodriguez II, 2017.
Theodore Sahl was an award winning photographer in San José, California. Sahl spent 30 years as a photojournalist, documenting
social and political events in the Bay Area. Born May 5, 1927 to a poor Jewish family in Roxbury, an Irish suburb near Boston,
he faced discrimination on a daily basis living in the tenements of South Boston. He served in the U.S. Navy (1947) and was
stationed in Charleston, South Carolina where he first witnessed separate facilities and drinking fountains for African Americans.
These early experiences formed his views on social justice and civil rights. He spent his primary career working as a welder
in California, and in the 1970s he became an active photojournalist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
Although best known for his involvement with the LGBT community in San José, he also covered the anti-nuclear demonstrations
at the Lawrence Livermore Radiation Laboratory (1980-1987), the Mt. Diablo Nuclear Plant protests (1980-1987), the United
Farm Workers strikes (1970-1980s), and many other social protest movements in the region.
Sahl's long-time association with the LGBT community began in 1978 after a bitter dispute took place between the gay community
and members of the Christian right. Local Christian groups were upset over the San José City Council's decision to issue a
proclamation in support of Gay Pride Week. While the Christian groups mobilized against the City Council, the gay community
held a rally in support of Gay Pride Week. Intrigued by the grassroots activism and interested in recording the event, Sahl
attended the protest and thereby launched a long career documenting the LGBT community.
Initially, the community distrusted Sahl's motives as a heterosexual outsider. At that time, many individuals in the gay community
were still "closeted" and did not wish to be photographed. Over the next three decades, however, Sahl gained the trust of
the community and today is widely recognized for his work as a photojournalist and as an outspoken advocate for gay rights.
Sahl served as the staff photographer for a number of local LGBT newspapers including the Lambda News (1978-1983), Our Paper
(1984-1988), South Bay Times (1988-1990), and the Valley Views. His photographs have appeared in a number of works, including
a 1999 San José Mercury News documentary on the city's lesbian and gay community, entitled A Community of One. More recently
his work was recognized in another Mercury News story published March 25, 2011, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Billy
DeFrank center. In 1981, the San Francisco Cable Car Award Association nominated Sahl for an award in photojournalism. He
was also the recipient of an honorable mention in Advocate magazine's National Photo Contest in the "People" category. He
has the distinction of being the only heterosexual to ever become the President of the Board of the San José Gay Pride Celebration
Committee and was inducted into the Santa Clara Gay Hall of Fame in 1988. He is the author of From Closet to Community: a
Quest for Gay and Lesbian Liberation in San Jose and Santa Clara County (2002).
Scope and Content of Collection
The Ted Sahl Social Justice Collection represents the work of local photojournalist Theodore Sahl (Ted). A long term resident
of San José, Sahl, documented social, political, and cultural events in the Bay Area through photography. His early work largely
focused on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in San José, but he also documented a range of social
protest movements and political events from the 1970s to the present. This collection represents the culmination of his work
over the last thirty years, and is a companion to The Ted Sahl Archives: A Collection of San José Gay and Lesbian History,
which documents the LGBT community from 1976-2011, and the Black Americana Collection.
This photographic collection similarly depicts the LGBT community in San José, as well as documenting the anti-nuclear protests
against Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1980s. Other protest movements, farm labor strikes, and rallies, are
well represented. Sahl captured numerous action shots of, activists, campaign initiatives, celebrities, the environment, festivals,
local events, politicians, and numerous social justice protests. Series V documents his life as an artist, photographer, researcher,
and writer, and includes the first draft of his book From Closet to Community, which he self-published in 2002.
The bulk of the photographs in this collection are photographic essays he compiled, contact prints, negatives, printed materials,
ephemera, personal memoirs, and a small collection of non-photographic artwork.
This collection also includes his personal papers, which consist of business records, copies of the manuscript for his book,
and copies of the book as well.
This collection is arranged in five series: Series I. Peace Protests and Demonstrations, 1980-2007; Series II. Culture, Society,
and Politics, 1970-2009; Series III. LGBT Identity Politics, 1970-2011; Series IV. Recreation, Leisure and the Environment,
1970-1989; and Series V. Ted Sahl's Personal Personal Papers, 1976-2011.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Gays -- California -- San Jose
Gay liberation movement -- California -- Santa Clara County
Civil rights -- California -- San Jose
AIDS activists -- California -- San Jose
Antinuclear movement -- California -- Livermore
Gay rights -- California -- San Jose
Social justice -- California -- San Jose