Stonewall and Its Impact on the Gay Liberation Movement

In the summer of 1969, as part of Mayor John Lindsey’s crackdown on gay bars, New York City police detectives conducted a routine raid on Stonewall Inn. The violent response of Stonewall Inn’s patrons, as well as subsequent riots and protests, marked a shift in LGBT activism that rippled through the decades following and impacted the gay rights and gay liberation movements in the United States.

The raid happened on Saturday, June 28, 1969, in the early morning hours. Faced with arrest, patrons fought back. Following media coverage of the event in the mainstream press and gay news outlets, thousands protested and clashed with riot police over the next six days. The aftermath of the Stonewall riots saw an explosion in gay movement organization, pride, and political activism.

The gay liberation movement of the 1970s was part of that explosion. It built on the foundation laid in the 1950s and 1960s by gay organizations such as the Mattachine Society, Janus Society, and the Daughters of Bilitis, and it took advantage of the existing political networks of Black Power, New Left, anti-war, women’s liberation, and youth counterculture. Activists within the gay liberation movement established several national organizations still in existence today, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force), the Log Cabin Republicans, and Lambda Legal.

This set uses primary sources to explore the events preceding and surrounding the Stonewall Inn riots as well as the aftermath of the riots in the gay liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. These sources demonstrate the continuing influence of Stonewall on America’s LGBTQ community, the civil rights movement, and American politics in general.