New York Public Library Exhibit Documents Stonewall 40

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 13, 2009

June 28 marks the 40th anniversary of the night that a group of gay men, lesbians, the transgendered, and (eventually) the straight hippies, anti-war activists and other denizens of Greenwich Village rose up to fight police harassment.

The night has become famous around the world, of course, as the event and the date that marks the birth of the modern gay rights movement. To celebrate, the city is pulling out all the stops. The tourism board has been marketing 2009 as the year of the "Rainbow Pilgrimage." Millions are expected to descend on the city for the march that commemorates the three nights of rioting this June 28.

The city's public library is doing its part, with a comprehensive exhibit taken from its own extensive archives that documents those heady early days of gay liberation: "1969: The Year of Gay Liberation" charts the emergence and evolution of this new vision from the Stonewall Riots to the first LGBT Pride march on Christopher Street in June 1970.

All of the materials for this exhibition were drawn from the LGBT collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library. The exhibit will be located at the beautiful Beaux Arts central library smack dab in the middle of the city, at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. It will reflect the way the time--the late '60s, the age of protest--and the place--the Village, the epicenter of the counterculture--influenced this momentous event.

"This exhibition charts a historic and pivotal moment in history for gays and lesbians that goes beyond New York City," says Jason Baumann, the show's curator. "The year 1969 marks the first time homosexuals united, demanded, and were willing to fight for full inclusion within American society.

"As a result of the actions taken during this time," adds Baumann, who is also coordinator of the LGBT Collections at library, "gays and lesbians marked a paradigmatic shift in the ways that not only they saw themselves but also how the world would see them."

There will be three special events surrounding the show:
? Saturday, June 13, 2009, 2:00 p.m., South Court Classrooms
A workshop on how to do research on LGBT history using the NYPL's resources.
? Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 6:00 p.m., Berger Forum
Historian David Carter, author of Stonewall, will discuss myths and facts pertaining to the incident.
? Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 6:00 p.m., South Court Auditorium
Surviving members of Gay Liberation Front will reunite to reminisce on their experiences in the movement and its historical purposes.

Gay Liberation Front marches on Times Square, 1969. (Photo: Diana Davies)

Donna Gottschalk holding poster 1970 (Photo: Diana Davies)

Stonewall Inn 1969 (Photo: Donna Davies)

Gay Liberation Front & Lavendar Menace member 1970 (Photo: Diana Davies)

Lavender Menace members holding signs reading "The Women’s Movement Is a Lesbian Plot," May 1970 (Photo: Diana Davies)

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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