DC -- Library of Congress -- Exhibit (Agile): Stonewell @ 50:
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LOCS50_190529_008.JPG: Stonewall at 50:
LGBTQ+ Activism in the United States
June 28, 1969, marks the beginning of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of events between police and LGBTQ+ protesters that lasted six days. It was not the first time police raided a gay bar, and it was not the first time LGBTQ+ people fought back, but the events that would unfold over the next six days would fundamentally change the nature of LGBTQ+ activism in the United States.
LOCS50_190529_019.JPG: The Stonewall Inn
In 1969, the Stonewall Inn was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City. It was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person in New York until 1966, and by 1969, the majority of gay establishments were still operating without a liquor license, providing an open door for raids and police brutality. The police raids on gay bars and spaces was not isolated to the East and West coasts; it was a phenomenon happening across the U.S. during this time. Early homophile activism, in part, focused on how LGBTQ+ people should interact with law enforcement to avoid harassment of arrest.
LOCS50_190529_023.JPG: Before Stonewall: The U.S. Homophile Movement
Organizations like the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) are considered to be part of the homophile movement, along with other organizations focused on securing LGBTQ+ civil and legal rights. The DOG was founded in 1955 by lesbian couple Del Martin and Phillis Lyon, becoming the first lesbian rights organization in the United States.
The Ladder was the official publication of the DOB. Beginning publication in 1956, The Ladder became the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the United States. Many leading lesbian activists served as editors or contributed content.
LOCS50_190529_026.JPG: Who was at Stonewall?
Stonewall was a refuge for the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community -- drag queens, hustlers, and homeless youth. Many of the youth had been kicked out or had run away from home and camped out in the park across the street. Despite the hardships they faced, they participated in activism and organized to better their community. Vanguard Magazine was a zine distributed by LGBTQ+ youth in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco. This 1967 issue features an article about the increased police harassment occurring in gay spaces locally and across the nation.
LOCS50_190529_030.JPG: Queens Liberation Front: Drag Queens Leading the Movement
The presence of drag queens and gender non-conforming activists at Stonewall has been historically under recognized. During the 1960s it was illegal to "cross-dress" and drag queens and other "cross dressers" were often the first to be arrested during a gay bar raid. Drag queens even worked the bar at the Stonewall, including the famous Maggie Jiggs. Drag Magazine, the official publication of the Queens Liberation Front, shows how early drag queens were aware of their erasure within the larger movement, and reminded readers that, "... the drag queen founded the gay pride movement!"
LOCS50_190529_064.JPG: Stonewall at 50:
LGBTQ+ Activism in the United States
LOCS50_190529_067.JPG: Gay Liberation Radicalizes the Homophile Movement
After Stonewall, activists were no longer satisfied with the assimilationist tactics of the homophile movement. LGBTQ+ activism became louder, prouder, and less apologetic than ever before. In August 1969, one month after Stonewall, the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations Committee on Youth produced a radical manifesto titled, The Homophile Movement Must be Radicalized! The manifesto laid out an action plan for the future of LGBTQ+ activism and insisted that activists employ broader thinking and more radical tactics.
LOCS50_190529_069.JPG: The Birth of Pride: Christopher Street Liberation Day 1970
On the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in June 1970, the first gay Pride march was held in New York City. Organized by Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, the protest drew thousands from across the country. You can watch footage of the first Pride march on the Library of Congress website. The short film, Gay and Proud, was the work of pioneering lesbian activist Lilli Vincenz. Pause the film at 00:24 to see the Christopher Street Flyer featured in this display.
LOCS50_190529_073.JPG: Intersectionality in the Gay Liberation Movement
The mainstream Gay Liberation Movement was often criticized for its focus on white, cisgendered, middle-class men. Efforts were made by people of color, women, and gender non-conforming people to make the movement a more inclusive space for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. Into the 1970s, harassment to the gay community continued. An account of of the 1970 racist and sexist attack at "The Lost and Found," a Washington, DC, gay bar, is shown here. Importantly, the eighth demand insists that establishments welcome all gay people, no matter race, age, sex, or dress, and they distinctly demanded that discrimination against transvestites end.
LOCS50_190529_077.JPG: 50 Years Later: Honoring the Legacy of Stonewall
Stonewall lives on in the minds and hearts of LGBTQ+ people all over the world as the moment that sparked a gay rights revolution. The first Pride march was a protest against the harassment, violence, and all-encompassing marginalization became an important symbol of the struggle for LGBTQ+ equality. The legacy of LGBTQ+ activism is preserved indefinitely through materials in the Library of Congress collections.
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