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Robert Rygor Papers

Identifier: SCA-0059

Scope and Content Note

Types of material in this collection include: correspondence, photographs, near print materials (political flyers, activist pamphlets, and community activism posters) and personal ephemera. Highlights of topics covered in this collection include: Rygor's work with ACT UP, correspondence with politicians on AIDS activism issues, his 1990 political campaign for New York State Assemblyman, and his campaign for a position on District #2 Board of Education supporting the Rainbow Curriculum.


  • 1953-1994, bulk 1988-1993



Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.


The Robert Rygor Collection is physically owned by the Queens College Libraries. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.

Biographical & Historical Note

Robert Rygor (1953-1994), was a New Yorker deeply involved with both GLBT and AIDS activist movements from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. In addition, Rygor focused on community activism/urban planning, as well as running for political office. In 1994, Robert passed away from his battle with AIDS.

Robert was born on June 17th 1953 to Stanley and Kathleen Rygor and raised in Astoria, Queens, New York. Kathleen left Co Offaly, Ireland and settled in New York where she soon met Stanley who is an English/Italian American. Stanley embraced Kathleen’s Irish heritage and they raised their five children with strong Irish traditions.

Robert graduated from New York University with an MBA in Finance. As a young adult Robert moved to Greenwich Village in Manhattan and remained in this neighborhood for the rest of his life. Rygor became involved in GLBT activism as early as 1974. In 1978 he protested the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for excluding the GLBT community. That same year, Rygor became the first openly gay man to run for New York State Legislature. He served as supervisor for the 1980 US Census Bureau and worked for NYS Department of Taxation and Finance until his diagnosis with AIDS in 1990.

During the 1980s, Rygor was involved in community activism in New York City including advocating for the restoration and safety of NYC parks such as Washington Square Park (1985-1989). In addition, Rygor was also a member of Villagers Against Crime (VAC) where he spent time creating community awareness by communicating with NYC politicians and police for safer neighborhoods from prostitution and drug dealers/use (1984-1988). Throughout the 80s and early 90s he organized around many issues, including sex education in schools, diversification of the NYC school curriculum, and the passage of the NYU gay rights policy statement.

Once diagnosed with AIDS in 1990, Rygor decided to devote the rest of his life to politics and AIDS activism; he began by running for NYS Assembly for the second time (1990). Although defeated by Deborah Glick, Rygor continued as a political activist. In the early 1990s, he served as Workspace Manager for the pivotal organization ACT UP, whose militant direct action tactics succeeded in focusing the nation’s attention on the AIDS crisis. In 1992, he testified at the Democratic Platform Committee Hearings to advocate inclusion of AIDS awareness and funding into their platform. In December of the same year he travelled to Cameroon to the 7th International Conference on AIDS in Africa.

Even after he was hospitalized, Rygor carried on his activism from his hospital bed. Before his death in 1994, Rygor wrote a letter to ACT UP’s uncensored, internal newsletter RITA describing his dedication to ACT UP and his eagerness to be released from the hospital: “That day I will feel more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I will be back with my friends I love and can’t wait to hold you in my arms. P.S. Thanks for keeping me alive. ACT UP. FIGHT BACK. FIGHT AIDS.” Rygor passed away five days later.


12 Linear Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials



Robert Rygor worked as a community, LGBT rights and AIDS activist in and around his neighborhood of Greenwich Village for the majority of his adult life. Graduating from New York University in 1976 with an MBA in Finance, he worked briefly for Morgan Stanley (1972-1976) and then for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (1982-1990). He organized support on a wide variety of issues and participated in several organizations, including Villagers Against Crime (1984-1988), the New Frontier Democratic Club (1987-1991) and the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (1990-1994). He was also active in politics, running twice for State Assembly (1978, 1990) and for the School Board in Manhattan’s District 2 (1993). The collection contains correspondence, flyers and pamphlets, clippings, photographs and miscellanea documenting his life, activism and political activities.

Arrangement Note

The contents of this collection are mostly arranged topically, with each series documenting a distinct aspect of Robert Rygor’s life and activism. As a result, the series will contain multiple types of records across different date ranges. An exception to this rule occurs in Series XII and XIII, which deal with photographs and audiovisual material, respectively. Folder level information is arranged alphabetically.

Series I: Personal Series II: ACT UP Series III: AIDS/HIV Series IV: Condom Advocacy Series V: GLBT Activism Series VI: School Board Series VII: Community Activism Series VIII: Politics Series IX: New Frontier Democratic Club Series X: Labels and Directories Series XI: Photographs Series XII: “Remembering Robert” Documentary


Donated by Stanley and Kathleen Rygor, parents of the late Robert Rygor, in 2011

Related Collections

GLASA/PRISM, Queens College, NY



Robert Rygor Papers
The collection was processed by Special Collections Fellow Corinne Klee and approved by Civil Rights Archive Project Manager Annie Tummino, Summer of 2012. Additional processing performed by Mark Sacha, Fall of 2014.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us