November 7, 2023 – Andrew Amstutz
A Conversation with Ruth Coker Burks, the ‘Arkansas Cemetery Angel’: AIDS Activism & New Archives in Arkansas
This Evenings with History will address the history of the AIDS epidemic in Arkansas through a conversation between the ‘Arkansas Cemetery Angel,’ Ruth Coker Burks, and Dr. Andrew Amstutz. Ruth Coker Burks was a caregiver and AIDS activist in Arkansas from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Ms. Burks also provided a final resting place in the Files Cemetery (in Hot Springs) for some of the men for whom she cared. In turn, the Files Cemetery has become an important (and contested) site of LGBTQ+ memory. In recent years, renewed newspaper coverage and the publication of Ms. Burks’ memoir, All the Young Men, has brought both wider acclaim and criticism. Dr. Amstutz will first introduce the Center for Arkansas History and Culture’s ongoing efforts to collect Ms. Burks’ archive along with the archival materials of other caregivers and activists in Arkansas. Then he will interview Ms. Burks to discuss her life and work.