This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York City. The videos below tell the story. Like other struggles for human and democratic rights, the LGBT community rose up in violent reaction to decades of deadening and inhumane oppression. It wasn’t planned. Such things aren’t. There simply arrives a moment in history when it’s time. When enough is enough. That moment for the LGBT community was the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.
Everything the LGBT community has achieved over these past 50 years can be traced to that night, and the several nights of rioting that followed.
We open with a snapshot of gay life leading up to 1969 as it was presented by CBS News. This is a highlight clip from The Homosexuals broadcast in 1967, two years before Stonewall.
Earlier this month PBS aired Stonewall Uprising. This clip helps sets the stage for what Stonewall was about that night. You can stream the entire program at pbs.org.
The following videos offer varying accounts of Stonewall, telling the story and drawing conclusions from both historic and contemporary perspectives. First up, a video from the History Channel.
This next video takes a more extended look at Stonewall. It includes an interview with Karla Jay who I had the honor of meeting in the mid-70s at one of the annual conferences sponsored by the Kent Gay Liberation Front (KGLF) at Kent State. Karla co-authored the the first book I ever had the courage to buy and read about gay liberation, Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation.
Marsha P. Johnson & Sylvia Rivera
Transvestites and transgender people in many ways comprised the vanguard of this and other early struggles for LGBT rights — indeed back when it was just “gay rights” without “T.” And they took some heat for it too. Not everyone welcomed them into the fold. But we owe our victories today to their bravery and tenacity.
Two of the most prominent warriors were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Together they founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970 and opened a shelter in New York City for transgender people.
These next two videos look at these remarkable women.
Like many historical events, a certain folklore as built up around Stonewall. For instance, was Judy Garland’s death that week the catalyst for Stonewall? Were there kicklines? This New York Times video tries to sort out these and other questions.
Title image: Public Domain by Gryffindor. [License]
Title image: Diana Davies, copyright owned by New York Public Library / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
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