New Primer on Stonewall Sets the Record Straight

by Jill Gleeson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 29, 2019

It if wasn't the defining moment in the fight for queer rights, it was the turning point. The Stonewall uprising was the call to action for LGBTQ community — heard and heeded not just in New York City, where it began, or the United States, but across the planet. June 28th, 1969, was when the nascent struggle for equality turned into a loud, proud battle, and thanks to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project and a consortium of leaders in queer history documentation, interpretation, and outreach, that night (and the others that followed) have been chronicled in a new FAQ-style primer.

"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, and New York City is set to host World Pride this June," says Ken Lustbader, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. "With millions of people expected to visit the city for Pride month, we're seizing on this opportunity to provide the most accurate documentation about this history-making event."

Who, What, Why, Where and When
As happens with momentous events that shape history, the details of what actually occurred during the six nights of the Stonewall uprising have evolved into what Eric Marcus, founder and host of the Making Gay History podcast, calls legend and myth. "'Stonewall: The Basics' clarifies the historical record. This new fact sheet will provide a starting point for anyone interested in knowing about Stonewall and the events that helped shape the trajectory of a movement that has spread around the world."

Along with offering an important overview, the fact sheet includes plenty of fascinating tidbits about that long-ago summer night. Who knew the Stonewall Inn, where it all began with a police raid, was owned by a mobster? Fat Tony Lauria opened the establishment in 1967, according to "Stonewall: The Basics," "as a 'private' gay club—one of the few in Greenwich Village where patrons could dance. Gay bars often operated as 'private' clubs to circumvent the New York State Liquor Authority regulation that prohibited gay people from being served alcoholic beverages."

The club, which boasted painted-black front windows covered by plywood, brought in everyone from those dressed in "scare drag" to men in business suits. While it's unknown who started the confrontation, "On the first night of the uprising 13 arrests were made," the fact sheet states. No one was killed that night or any of the following, although "according to eyewitnesses the first night brought out five to six hundred people, the second night about two thousand, and the sixth and final night, five hundred to a thousand."

Take a Walkabout
While the Stonewall Inn's long vertical sign and original interior are long gone, the facade remains. The building, which was designated a national monument in 2016 by President Barack Obama, is home to the Stonewall Inn bar and a nail salon. It's the third stop on a self-guided walking tour map published in 2017 by the National Parks Conservation Association and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

The tour features nearly 20 historic sites significant to the LGBTQ community, anchored by the Stonewall National Monument in New York's Greenwich Village, and including the locations of the start of New York's first Pride march, the country's first gay and lesbian bookshop, and The Duchess, a lesbian bar closed when the city revoked its liquor license under Mayor Edward Koch in the early 1980s.

For the anyone heading to New York City in June for World Pride, this 45-minute walking tour provides a rousing look at the places where world-changing LGBTQ history happened. The fact sheet, according to Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, asks us to recall "that it is people who make history... the homeless LGBTQ teens, trans women of color, lesbians, drag queens, and more who resisted the police at Stonewall are part of a long legacy of community building, protesting, and history-making individuals who have shaped the LGBTQ movement, and who continue to do so to this very day."

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.

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