Russ Lopez, who came to the library not too long ago to talk about the revival of Boston’s fortunes since its downward spiral the 1940s and 1950s (Boston's history, Boston 1945 - 2015: The Decline and Rise of a Great World City) and before that with a tome about the South End’s gentrification tribulations (Boston's South End: The Clash of Ideas in a Historic Neighborhood), will return on May 28 with his new South End chronicle, this time about the impact of the GLBTQ community in the Boston area since the 17th century, titled The Hub of the Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown, and Beyond. As his website will tell you, “Since the coming of Europeans to Massachusetts in 1620, LGBTQ people have been an important presence. They challenged gender, social, and sex norms in the 17th century. They were welcomed into the upper reaches of Boston society in the 19th century. They contributed to the great effort to liberate LGBTQ people everywhere in the 20th and 21st centuries.
“From the Trans Day of Remembrance to same-sex marriage, Boston has been at the forefront of the battle for LGBTQ rights. Meanwhile Provincetown has been welcoming out LGBTQ people to its beaches and nightspots since at least World War I. The LGBTQ hisory of the region includes heartbreakingly sad moments that will make readers angry, and increadilbly happy times that will make them wish they had been there to share in the fun.”
Lopez, who decades ago was invited to a party in the South End and never really left after that, is part of the informal but dedicated South End Library's historical archives group that collects information about the neighborhood’s bygone days for safekeeping at the branch's second-floor archives' office. The group represents a small cottage industry of South End historians and history buffs who have written about the neighborhood's art, culture, gentrification and urban renewal battles. Many of them have talked about their work for the South End Writesprogram at the library. They include South End News’s former Police Blotter scribe, John Sacco (famous for his iconic phrase, "The Scoundrel Was Arrested on the Spot"); Lynne Potts (A Block in Time: a History of the South End from a Window on Holyoke Street); Hope J. Shannon (Legendary Locals of Boston’s South End); Jean Gibran (Love Made Visible —a biography of her marriage to South End sculptor Kahlil Gibran); Alison Barnet (South End Character: Speaking Out on Neighborhood Change and the South End thriller Sitting Ducks); and Richard Vacca’s outstanding history of the local music scene (The Boston Jazz Chronicles: Faces, Places and Nightlife 1937-1962).
A native of California, Lopez received his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Earth Sciences from Stanford University and his Master of City and Regional Planning degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His doctorate is from the Department of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health His research interests include urban environmental health and the role played by cities, neighborhoods and the built environment on public health outcomes. Current and past studies by Lopez include the role of neighborhoods in long-term diet and exercise interventions; the influence of schoolyard renovations on student test scores; and the association between the built environment and obesity. Lopez has published articles on the health effects of racial segregation, income inequality and urban sprawl. He is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health.