By Josette Ferguson
Early Life in New York
Mandy Carter was born in Albany, New York on November 2, 1948, as one of three children. At the age of five, her mother left her and her siblings, so she grew up in orphanages until she graduated from high school. After graduating from high school, Carter attended Hudson Valley Community College to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. However, she was not able to finish due to lost of financial backing, so she ended up dropping out.
Once dropping out of community college, Carter decided to move to New York City. Sadly, she eventually ran out of money, which resulted in her sleeping on park benches. But through this hardship, Carter found the League for Spiritual Development. The organization offered her a place to sleep and food to eat for answering the phone and doing other task.
In the summer of 1967, Carter left New York City and hitched hiked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Upon arriving to California, she managed to find a place to stay with a draft resister, which led to her involvement in the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence and the War Resisters League. Through the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, Carter found her passion of helping others. In the year of 1969, many male war resisters were being sent to jail, so women began to fill up organizer positions. During this year, Carter was asked to join the staff of the War Resisters League. She also worked with the Committee on Draft Resistance at this time as well. Also, 1969 was the same year she came out as a lesbian, while being involved with the War Resister League.
After working in San Francisco for a few years, Carter transferred to Los Angeles to work with the War Resisters League from 1973-1977. In 1977, she moved back to San Francisco and started working as a bartender in a bar called Maud’s. Carter then left Maud’s to manage Amelia’s, which was a lesbian bar. But eventually she got tired of the bar scene and found a job with the War Resisters League in Durham, North Carolina.
Carter worked for the War Resisters League in Durham, North Carolina from 1982-1988 and then went to work at Ladyslipper Music for the year of 1989, which is a lifeline for Middle American lesbians. During the year of 1990, Carter was encouraged by Sue Hyde, from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, along with others to take on the project of organizing gays and lesbians to vote against Jesse Helms. Carter was made director of the group called North Carolina Senate Vote ’90,which was created to get North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms out of office. In the end, their candidate Harvey Gantt did not win the election but their campaign still has people talking about how they attacked Senator Helms.
Involvement in Human Rights Campaign
In 1991, Carter helped put together Rhythm Fest, which was a women’s music festival in the South. Shortly after that, she got called to be apart of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington D.C. as the Southeast Field Coordinator. Through her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign then led her to be the Southeast Lobbyist for the 12 Southern States Delegation. Following that, she then took a job organizing against the white Radical Right in the black community. Through this specific position, Carter saw how great the separation was between black gays and white gays, which gave her the idea to create the National Call to Resist: Countering the White Right in the Black Community. This gave a voice to African American gays and lesbians.
NC Mobilization '96
After working with the Human Rights Campaign for a few years, Carter returned to North Carolina to work on the 1996 anti-Helms campaign. For the anti-Helms campaign in 1996, Carter founded and directed NC Mobilization ’96, which was a statewide lesbian and gay organization to defeat North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. This time around Carter and her staff were more active in the Democratic Party but still were unsuccessful in getting Harvey Gantt into the Senate.
In the 2000's
In 2000, she participated in a non-partisan statewide voter empowerment campaign for the state of Florida. The African-American Ministers Leadership Council of the People, For the American Way Foundation, and the Florida NAACP initiated the campaign and this resulted in one of Florida’s largest black voter turnout’s ever." In the rest of the early 2000’s, Carter founded the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) in 2003. At this point the NBJC, is “the only current national civil rights organization of concerned black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and allies dedicated to fostering equality by ending racism and homophobia." Another organization that Carter cofounded and is still around today is called SONG, which stands for Southerners on New Ground. A collective of multi-racial lesbians founded this organization in 1993, which ranged from upper middle class to lower class and focuses on the South. The organization works to “build and maintain a Southern LGBTQ infrastructure for organizers strong enough to combat the Southern-specific strategy of the Right to divide and conquer Southern oppressed communities using the tools of rural isolation, Right-wing Christian infrastructure, racism, environmental degradation, and economic oppression." Carter served as SONG’s Durham-based Executive Director from 2003-2005.
In 2005, Carter was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Also during the 2008 presidential elections, Carter was one of the five National Co-Chairs of Obama Pride, which was “the LGBT grassroots infrastructure for Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential campaign." In addition, she was a member of Hillary Clinton’s North Carolina LGBT Steering Committee until Obama won the North Carolina Democratic Primary in May 2008. Recently, Mandy Carter was named the American Civil Liberties Union-North Carolina’s 2011 Frank Porter Graham Award winner. Currently, she lives in Durham, North Carolina.
- Interview with Mandy Carter by Holloway Sparks, October 3, 1996 G-0205, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Simon Glickman, Simon. "Mandy Carter." Answers.com. Answers. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://www.answers.com/topic/mandy-carter>.
- "Wake County Women's Agenda Assembly." Wake County Women's Agenda Assembly. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. <http://wakewaa.wordpress.com/mandy-carter>.
- "Southerners On New Ground." Â» Building a Political Home across Race, Class, Culture, Gender & Sexuality. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://southernersonnewground.org/>.