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Robert W. Halfhill Papers

Identifier: Tretter-288

Scope and Content

The Robert W. Halfhill papers (1956-2011) are composed of clippings, subject files, financial records, organizational records, correspondence, personal writing, and ephemera. Coverage is given to the Act Up Minnesota – Gay Liberation Front and Halfhill’s prisoner support work, Halfhill’s personal papers, as well as subject files documenting AIDS activism, GLBT activism, and topics of personal interest to Robert Halfhill. Covered extensively is Halfhill’s work as an activist for Act Up and his efforts to assist prisoners living with AIDS. In addition, materials include documentation of Halfhill’s involvement with organizations as secretary and treasurer, personal campaigns for city council and state senate, correspondence and personal writings. Additional detail regarding the specific series is outlined below:

Series 1: Act Up

Contains correspondence, event materials, public relations, national network records, meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, financial documents, program resources, and administrative records of the Act Up Minnesota – Gay Liberation Front organization.

Series 2: Prisoner Support Work

Contains correspondence, event materials, public relations and awareness campaigns, resources on prisons, HIV/AIDS, and mistreatment of prisoners, Halfhill’s writings on prisoners, and clippings.

Series 3: Personal

Contains the records of Halfhill’s involvement with organizations, including F.R.E.E. (FREE/Fight Repression of Erotic Expression); his personal campaigns; his work on other candidates’ campaigns; documents on legal cases; personal events; materials on his mother; personal health documents; correspondence; and his personal writings which includes several manuscripts for short stories and his novel,Priapus is Lord.

Series 4: Subject Files

HIV/AIDS Subject Files -- Contains materials relating to HIV and AIDS including nature and origin of the virus; policies relating to the spread of the disease, including bathhouse policies, healthcare workers, and mandatory testing; life stories; insurance; order forms; surveillance and statistic reports; event materials; organizations including MN AIDS Project; MN Department of Health; resources on drugs and treatment; resources on prevention; special issue publications; and newsletters.

GLBT Subject files -- Contain documents, flyers, mailings, and correspondence with or about GLBT organizations; policy, politics, and legal issues including domestic partnerships and marriage, caucus materials, police brutality, vice laws, and crime; discrimination; survey materials and documents from the North Star Survey; health; religion; transgender; order forms; directories; documents on Jack Baker and Michael McConnell; and resources from Gary Rankila.

General Subject Files -- Contains flyers, calendars, and mailings from neighborhood events; announcements and pamphlets from shows at the Guthrie Theater and Ordway Theater; documents and mailings on atheism; marijuana legalization resources and NORML mailings; health including arthritis, and lead poisoning; ozone depletion and other environmental issues; documents and mailings on feminism and women’s issues, underserved populations, and political prisoners; documents on the American political process; documents and mailings on socialism; newsletters from the Minnesota House and Senate.

Series 5: Clippings

ContainsContains clippings published in Skyway news, Psychology Today, Washington Journal, New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Daily, Time Magazine, The Nation, Worker’s World, Phoenix, Chicago Tribune, Vanity Fair, Twin Cities Reader, and TV guide. Subjects covered include articles on court cases, obituaries, HIV/AIDS, personal interactions, hate groups, youth, education, crime, authors, advice columns, famous persons, and GLBT concerns, including domestic partnerships, marriage, discrimination, sodomy laws, and violence.


  • 1956-2011, undated

Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

Restrictions on Use

Please contact staff regarding copyright status of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Biographical Note

Robert Halfhill (1941-2017)

Halfhill grew up in Kentucky, and moved to the Twin Cities in his 20s - where he came out as gay, joined the Socialist Workers Party, and eventually enrolled at the University of Minnesota in a graudate program for Philosophy. Although apprehensive at first, he joined Koreen Phelps and Stephen Ihrig in the summer of 1969 and spearheaded the move to make F.R.E.E. a University of Minnesota-sanctioned student organization the following autumn. In the debates that erupted between F.R.E.E.’s “liberal” and “radical” factions in 1970, Halfhill sided with the liberals, issuing a 15 page essay (which he later renounced) on the merits of “Radicalism versus [Liberalism in] Gay Liberation.” After F.R.E.E. disbanded, he remained active in movement work and electoral politics, organizing around a range of gay rights, racial justice, and peace issues. He later served as ACT UP/Minnesota’s treasurer and in 2005 ran for a seat on the Minneapolis City Council. You can read more about his platform at

ACT UP Minnesota was founded in April of 1989. The organization’s efforts led to changes in policy in several areas. ACT UP Minnesota organized protests against limiting HIV/AIDS education in Mora, Minnesota schools and as a result AIDS and sex education was restored. ACT UP also advocated for prisoners living with AIDS.


44 boxes (52.17 linear feet)


The collection contains the personal and professional papers of Robert Halfhill, as well as his collection of subject files and clippings.


The Robert W. Halfhill papers, 1956-2011 are arranged in four series:

  1. Series 1: Act Up
  2. Series 2: Prisoner Support Work
  3. Series 3: Personal and Biographical
  4. Series 4: Subject files

Source of acquisition

The collection was donated by Robert W. Halfhill.

Related Materials

The Tretter Collection holds the Socialist Workers Party Discussion Bulletin Vol. 26, No. 11 (October 1967), which contains an article by Robert Halfhill titled "On the Proposal for a Black Trotskyist Party," available here:,contains,swp%20discussion%20bulletin&offset=0

Related collections include:

Minnesota AIDS Project Records, 1983-2005

McConnell - Michael McConnell Files, 1965-2014

Tretter - Jean-Nickolaus papers

Processing Information

The collection has been processed in several accessions. Processors include: Heather Dahlgren, Susan Hoffman, Jordan Burrell, and Jennifer Shaw. Most recent processing efforts completed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Processing Information

Several F.R.E.E. newsletters have been pulled from this collection, cataloged, and collocated with other F.R.E.E. newsletters in the F.R.E.E. newsletters box on the S1 front wall.

Robert W. Halfhill papers, 1956-2011
Jennifer Shaw
March 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Jean Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies Collecting Area