ERNESTINE ECKSTEIN (1941–1992) was ahead of her time. As the lone Black lesbian at an early gay rights protest in front of the White House in 1965, her legacy is one of courage and unwavering resolve for the liberation of all peoples. She was a vice president and active member of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian civil rights organization in the United States. She helped move the DOB away from the early homophile movement’s emphasis on medical legitimization and towards direct action in the form of protests and demonstrations which she described as an “educational process of calling attention to unjustness.” She was the first Black woman to feature on the cover of the DOB’s publication THE LADDER in June of 1966 (Lorraine Hansberry, playwright and author of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, had previously contributed letters to THE LADDER in 1957), and in an interview conducted for the issue, Eckstein called for a progressive activism that included equality for trans people, anticipating the umbrella of LGBTQ+ solidarity. Eckstein was a visionary who understood the interwoven nature of oppression and the importance of cross-cultural coalitions. Disillusioned by the conservatism of east coast activist groups, Eckstein later relocated from Washington, D.C., to the Bay Area and joined the organization Black Women Organized for Political Action.
The letterforms in this font are based on those Eckstein wrote on her picket sign at that iconic 1965 protest: “DENIAL OF EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY IS IMMORAL.” The surname Eckstein is a pseudonym that she used to protect herself from those who might use the knowledge of her sexuality against her. For this reason, letters not visible or included on the sign are replaced by an indefinite underline to reflect Eckstein’s strategic social opacity. The lowercase includes letters not included in the uppercase but replaces those represented in the uppercase with underlines. This font was commissioned by Library Stack in 2020 and is the fifth font in a Queer Year of Love Letters.