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Posts Tagged ‘Stonewall Inn’

One of the exhibits created by students in the Creating Digital History course:

The Stonewall Inn: The Spark of the Revolution

by Shannon Elliott

The Stonewall Inn, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, is the site of what many believe to be the turning point in the Gay Rights movement. The Stonewall Riots began in the early hours of June 28, 1969 and continued for several nights following. While police raids of gay bars were a fairly common practice at this time, that night the patrons fought back and as a result, changed the course of history. The courage and strength displayed by the men and women outside of the Stonewall Inn that night inspired the gay community to take action and to let their voices be heard.

Not long after the riots the Gay Rights movement began to take shape. Groups like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance were formed and began to bring the gay community together through political action. These groups took their fight to the streets and captured the country’s attention with a movement that would only continue to gain momentum. The first Gay Pride parade was held a year later in June 1970 to commemorate the events of Stonewall.

The men and women who stood up against police harrassment at Stonewall that night sparked a revolution. Even at a time when few establishments welcomed openly gay people, homosexual sex was illegal in nearly every state, and there were no laws protecting gay me or women from losing their jobs if their sexuality was discovered, they fought back and defended their rights. While the journey is not over, the changes that have occurred throughout the country in support of gay rights in the last 43 years are a testament to the success of the Gay Rights movement that had precipitated from the riot. The legacy that the Stonewall Riots left is a powerful message; a legacy of acceptance, hope, and determination for the LGBT community.

Go to exhibit.

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I strongly disagreed with the way Gerard R. Wolfe characterized the riot at the Stonewall in <i> New York: 15 Walking Tours: An Architectural Guide to the Metropolis. </i> I understand that it is a guidebook, and not a major historical work. The phrasing “right to assemble peaceably” struck me as odd, and I realized why. The wording makes it sound like a First Amendment issue, when it is closer to a civil rights issue.

There were gay rights groups operating at the time, like the Mattachine Society, or the Daughters of Bilitis, and while they did have to worry about sending materials through the post-office due to obscenity laws, I do not recall having read about police raiding meetings of the organizations. It is quite possible headquarters would have been raided, which could have occurred during a meeting, but that goes back to the obscenity laws. In this hypothetical, the police were not there to disrupt a peaceful meeting, but to find obscene material.

My point is that gays and lesbians had the right to assemble peaceably, but not to socialize. An affectionate gay couple would not be welcomed at most bars during that era. Hand holding and touching would have generated stares from other guests, and possibly a violent reaction outside. The Stonewall Inn and other gay bars served as one of the main venues for socializing. Given the small space in the guidebook, I would have written, “right to socialize free from police harassment.”

 

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