Staff Recommendation – Stonewall Uprising (film)

Stonewall Bar 1969 – Disturbance at Sheridan Square, NYC. Scenes at Christopher St. and 7th Ave. South with police trying to clear crowds. Pictured, Stonewall Inn which was raided one day last week. July 2, 1969

In 60s-era New York, homosexuality was pathologized, criminalized, and punished by law enforcement. The American Psychiatric Association still classified it as a mental disorder, gay sex was punishable by fine or 20 years to life in prison, and routine police raids were conducted of any bars, baths, and spaces queer people were known to frequent.

Despite this, New York was still the big city, and by the 1960s there was a significant queer population that called the Greenwich Village area home, carving out a culture and place for themselves. Yet they were under constant threat.

On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-owned gay bar, was raided by police on a routine attack. After several arrests were made, the patrons of the bar, as well as the growing crowd outside snapped – after years of oppression, enough was enough. Sparked by some of the most vulnerable within the queer community – trans people and cross-dressers – the crowd began refusing arrest, physically defending themselves, and attempting to drive the police away, trapping some within the bar itself. The scene became one that some people described as an all-out rebellion which continued for days. In the months that followed, queer liberation organizing sprang into high gear, sparking a seminal event in the American LGBTQ rights movement which drove forward social progress in the coming decades.

Produced as part of the PBS American Experience series, Stonewall Uprising is a collection of interviews and stories by those that lived these events. Archival documents, narrative commentary, and, most of all, eyewitness accounts give shape to this important story throughout the film. There is no better time than Pride Month to learn more about these events where it all began, and how they still reverberate in today’s politics and culture.

This film is available through the library’s subscription database, Academic Video Online (Alexander St. Press), in a series of parts.

— Mike Romano, Music Circulation Assistant

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