These days we are approaching the end of June, which many people call Pride Month - a chance to celebrate pride in the LGBTQ+ community and to highlight the struggles its members still face in many places around the world, and to use our voices as allies or parts of the community to fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
June 28th, 1969 was the day when a police raid of the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, New York City, turned horribly violent, leading to the famous Stonewall riots. Before, the bar had been one of the very few safe havens for homosexual men and women, drag queens, transgender and gender-non-conforming people, as well as homeless youths. On June 28th, 1970, one year after this event, the first “Christopher Street Liberation” marches were held in honour of these riots, influencing LGBTQ+ activism in the US and around the globe, visibly expressing a new sense of self-confidence and pride. The uprising at Stonewall Inn was not the first act of rebellion by queer people for equal rights and treatment, neither in the world nor in the United States, but it had a lasting impact and a legacy still very present today. For example, the origins of Pride are still visible in the German name for pride demonstrations, celebrated under the name of “Christopher Street Day” in many German cities. However, not everyone is familiar with the actual history of the events in Christopher Street.
Here is a selection of books from out collection to help you if you want to learn more on this complex topic. Many of these books are divided in “before” and “after Stonewall”, to illustrate the strong impact of the events in Christopher Street, New York City. All of these books can be accessed by you via inter-library loan!
- The ideal place to start your research is David Carter’s Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (St. Martin’s Press, 2004), a historical reconstruction of the events in Christopher Street in June and July, 1969. The text sets the scene by describing the social and legal background and gives a magnitude of details and quotes.
- Stonewall (Dutton, 1993) by historian, activist and Gay Studies pioneer Martin Duberman relates the events leading up to Stonewall and their impact through the eyes of 6 activists of the community, including great biographical detail that succeeds in drawing these protagonists as fully-fledged, multidimensional individuals rather than just names. This also helps to showcase how people at different social intersections, for example, intersections of race and class, may have experienced these events through a different lens.
- Marc Stein’s The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History (New York University Press, 2019) and The Stonewall Reader by the New York Public Library (edited by Jason Baumann; Penguin, 2019) both provide a wealth of historical texts and resources from before, during and after Stonewall. Stein’s sourcebook is a collection of 200 primary resources, including song lyrics, demonstration flyers, letters to the editor in mainstream media and articles in magazines of the LGBTQ+ scene, from 6 US-American cities, covering 1965-73. The Stonewall Reader collects newspaper articles as well as essays, interviews and personal memories, valuable first-hand accounts chronicling the Stonewall years.
- Fred W. McDarrah’s coffee-table book Pride: Photographs after Stonewall (Zed Books, 2019, first edition under the title Gay Pride in 1994), chronicles New York’s LGBTQ+ community before and after the Stonewall riots. McDarrah, picture-editor and photographer of The Village Voice, witnessed the beginning of the movement and portrayed many icons, such as Tennessee Williams, Djuna Barnes, Frank O’Hara or Candy Darling, and many others, who are pictured in the volume along with images setting the scene of New York’s gay scene in the 1960s. High-quality, first-hand photographs of parades and protests in the decades following Stonewall and quotes by eye-witnesses give a vivid impression.
- Another feast for the eyes is Christopher Measom’s book PRIDE: The LGBTQ+ Rights Movement (Sterling, 2019). It presents big and colourful artworks, photographs, entertainment posters and other historical material, as well as photographic portraits of queer icons. The book serves as a colourful introduction to important 20th and early 21st century figures, movements and developments of LGBTQ+ rebellion, decade by decade.
Missing any essential reads for your research? Then contact us today!
Note: In this article, we try to reflect the diversity of the activists portrayed in these books by employing inclusive terms such as LGBTQ+, even though these were not historically in use in 1969.