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Harvey Milk Plaza flag © torbakhopper/Flickr
Harvey Milk Plaza flag © torbakhopper/Flickr

A Guide To Harvey Milk’s Legacy In San Francisco

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 25 August 2016
Harvey Milk left a powerful legacy behind him in San Francisco, where he became one of the most influential LGBT activists in history. The first-ever openly gay person to be elected to public office, Milk was assassinated at the age of 48. Since his death, Milk has been memorialized around the city in a variety of ways, from a series of exhibitions at the GLBT historical society to a postage stamp featuring his face. Get to know some of the enduring memorials created in his honor around San Francisco.

Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Center

Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Center overlooks Duboce Park, the headquarters for the Performing Arts Division of the Recreation and Park Department. The center is a hot spot for the city’s digital arts scene, with state-of-the-art technological facilities such as a recording studio and digital labs. The center also hosts the San Francisco Photo Center, which is home to one of the oldest and biggest public darkrooms for black-and-white printing in the United States. A variety of arts and recreation programming is hosted at the center, with facilities including a ballroom, dance studio, art studios, and galleries.

Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Center, 50 Scott St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 554 8742

Harvey Milk Plaza

Harvey Milk Plaza is laid out in front of the Muni station at the intersection of Market and Castro. The plaza was dedicated in 1997, on the 20th anniversary of Milk’s election. The plaza is primarily recognized for the massive rainbow flag it displays. The flag is 20 feet by 30 feet raised 70 feet in the air, and it flies all day every day except in poor weather conditions. The flag has eight colored stripes and can be seen from most corners of the city, all the way from the Ferry Building in the east to Twin Peaks in the west.

Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA

Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy

Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy is an alternative public elementary school for children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Located in the Castro district, the school has a mission ‘to empower student learning by teaching awareness, acceptance and non-violence, celebrating our diversity, achieving academic excellence, and fostering strong family-school-community connections.’ The school’s curriculum resounds with the legacy of its namesake, including hands-on, inquiry-based teaching, a strong visual and performing arts program, and a social studies program focused on global awareness and student activism.

Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, 4235 19th St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 241 6276

Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library

The Eureka Valley Library is a branch of the San Francisco Public Library that was dedicated to Milk and renamed the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library in 1981. The library celebrates Milk’s legacy with an LGBT Interest collection including materials on the culture, history, and life experience of the LGBT community. Any materials not hosted at the Eureka Valley branch are available in the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the Main Library Branch. The Eureka Valley Branch also has laptops available for public use inside the library, as well as a large collection of books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs.

Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Library, 1 Jose Sarria Court, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 355 5616

Harvey Milk Day

Harvey Milk Day is celebrated every year on May 22nd, the anniversary of Milk’s birthday, in Milk’s honor. The holiday is recognized by the state government as a day of special significance for public schools, established by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009. The holiday is put on by the Harvey Milk Foundation, a non-profit organization that puts on activities that encourage people and organizations to use Harvey Milk’s story to promote education and support for the young LGBT community.

Castro Camera

From 1972 until 1972, Castro Camera was owned and operated by Milk in the Castro district. The store doubled as a retail shop for photography supplies and the headquarters for Milk’s political campaigns. The shop quickly became a hub for LGBT activists as Milk ran for public office on four occasions. Milk also lived above the store and used it as headquarters to rebuild the Castro Village Association and launch the first-ever Castro Street Fair. Today, the site has been declared a landmark, and Milk is commemorated at the store’s former site with a plaque detailing his contributions to the city. Various memorabilia from Castro Camera are preserved at the GLBT Museum.

Castro Camera, 575 Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA