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Sahl (Ted) Social Justice Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Organizational/Biographical History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: SJSU Special Collections & Archives
    Title: Ted Sahl Social Justice Collection
    creator: Sahl, Ted
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS.2010.10.25
    Physical Description: 53 boxes (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.

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    Ted Sahl Social Justice Collection, MSS-2010-10-25, San Jose State University Library Special Collections and Archives.

    Processing Information

    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.

    Organizational/Biographical History

    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) community.
    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