Human Rights Campaign Gives New Life to Harvey Milk’s Legacy

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) store, operating at 575 Castro Street since 2011, was once the home of Castro Camera, a camera store operated by Harvey Milk from 1972 until his assassination in 1978.

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Milk became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

 

Milk, an avid amateur photographer, was disappointed over a developer ruining a roll of film. With his then-partner, Scott Smith, Milk opened the store in 1972, using the last $1,000 of their savings. The store soon became a focus of the growing influx of young gay people, who were coming from across the US to the Castro, where their sexual orientation was accepted.

 

During the 1970s the store became the center of the neighborhood’s growing gay community, as well as campaign headquarters for Milk’s various campaigns for elected office.

 

Located on the east side of Castro Street between 18th and 19th Streets, the HRC store’s location was previously recreated as a set for the Oscar-winning 2008 film Milk, the biopic of Milk’s life. The sparse set, carefully built to original detail including an old red couch and barber’s chair, drew the attention of many local residents who remembered the original. The modern-day shop owner and film crew also described seeing a ghost at the store, whom they assumed to be Milk.

 

Today, the HRC store continues to be a successful clothing and retail merchandise business, and it still features art and memorabilia in memory of Milk. A mural is painted behind the cash register inside the store, and a life-like painting of Milk looking down is painted onto one of the windows of the apartment above the shop.

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With more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide, HRC is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

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