50 years of Stonewall
Fifty years ago this week patrons of the stonewall in a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village stood up to police who had raided the venue since then the stonewall uprising has become the most storied event in the history of the LGBT, right struggle. But there's a history that has been and continues to be both under documented and overlooked. There isn't even a consensus on exactly what transpired on the evening of the uprising itself, I wanted to find out more about what forces have shaped the documentation of LGBT history to begin I paid a visit to pick Marcus at his home in Manhattan. My name is Eric Marcus. And I am the founder and host of the making gays repot cast. And we bring LGBTQ history to life to the voices of the people who lived it, and we draw much of material material from my archive of one hundred interviews that I recorded thirty years ago for an oral history book of the same name. I knew nothing about the movement before nineteen sixty nine I thought everything began stonewall. I discovered that was wasn't the case that I was really outraged. I thought why didn't I know this history to me? And so in most ways the most interesting part of our history is the history before stonewall, and I was able to find all of these people, mostly elderly, who had been there at the very beginning of the movement in the US, and I got to record their stories, my conception of LGBTQ history, changed dramatically that I spoke with people on there wasn't much written about it at the time I started my work, and so I had ideas about people, especially in the early movement that there was some how accommodation as so that all they wanted to do as simulate and it was the perspective of the people who wrote about it writing through the lens of the nineteen eighty s. What I didn't realize what the times were like and what people were up against early in the movement, and how courageous really radical, they were in their thinking that they that they imagined a world that could be different and slowly found a way I fit into the world. And then to begin changing it, and that to me made them radicals, even though some of a lot of the activists came along later looked at them and thought of them as less than and old fashioned that somehow there, what they did didn't matter very much, given the, the history of the movement goes back so far before stonewall. What do you think explains the editor of stonewall as a kind of watershed within algae, PT, Hugh history, stonewall uprising in stonewall was indeed a watershed of the movement? It was a turning point. But there were between fifty and sixty existing organizations in nineteen sixty nine there was a, a modest national movement. What stonewall did is it? Channeled or I should say the organizing that happened in the aftermath of stonewall based on the infrastructure that existed already channel, this new energy and anger into a much larger national movement. It, it inspired it triggered the gay liberation phase of what had been called the home afoul movement. So you went from fifty to sixty organizations in nineteen sixty nine to a year later, fifteen hundred organizations across the country, and then another year later twenty five hundred organizations thousands of young people at colleges and universities were brought into the movement. It was very young movement, and the people who are involved earlier were for the most part swept away some people continued on through the next days of the movement, and they brought their experience into this new phase of the movement. In fact, the first organizing meetings that were held right after stonewall were hosted by the Mattachine society, an organization founded in nineteen fifty in Los Angeles. And the daughters of leaders in organization for lesbians, founded in nineteen fifty five so it didn't. I thought that the movement sprang whole from the uprising of the stonewall inn, I didn't know, otherwise until I did my research and discovered that. It required. Concentration organizing in hard work to get from the stall uprising to the first pride March here in New York when you're later and then to this movement, that's now grown across the country and all over the world records of LGBT life have been shaped by the same divisions influence other histories, these include splits along sexual racial and generational lines. The lesbian her story archives are a historical repository run by lesbians for lesbians. I met Maxine Wolfe, one of the archives coordinate is in the Brooklyn brownstein. Whether kept most archives that call themselves LGBT are g and t they have practically no ill. Okay or be. So part of it is that we can't rely on other people to preserve our history. If you read most history books about the gay movement. A lot of what is in. There is about men and their movement, not what lesbians would doing at the same time, and even if they're lesbians in the organization, they don't get as much visibility. So this is about making sure that lesbians are at the center of that history. Also the way that we define it is very different than most archives. We define it as being as broad as possible we don't want to create an archive that's about only about famous lesbians, which most archives, they want material from well-known members of the community, and we have that, but we also value, the idea as Joan Nestle said that any lesbian at walks in here can see an image of herself which. Means that we have the papers of lesbian prostitutes, and go, go dancers, and truck drivers and secretaries as well as having papers of people like orgy Lord, or Audrey enrich, or other well-known, lesbians, would you mind showing me around? So on the first floor we put the things that most people who are not necessarily academic, researches would want to see novels autobiographies biographies. We also have literary criticism we have and Thala geez. We have poetry books. We have poetry anthologies, my favorite thing on this floor, though is we have books from other countries. And one of my favorite books is this, which was may? It's, it's called a Dikshit airy and it's handmade by a group of Japanese lesbians who brought it here, and it has phrases in English, and then Japanese, and then Japanese and English, and you can see it's all handmade. So it has things like are you monogamous? Women's take back the night it has a Butch on the streets in between the sheets. This is all an English. And then in Japanese this, reflects the way that I think, so many lesbians feel about wanting to make sure that people remember us. And that's what this archive is about the most touching thing that happens here is to see somebody come in and see something that they were part of some lesbian will walk through the door from some other state and, you know, an older woman who will say, you know, I was part of this poetry, collective in one thousand nine hundred seventy five and I bet you know, we did this book but you probably don't have it. And then I'll say, well, let's look, and then we look and we find it and people cry, you know, women cry when they come in here and see a couple of things not just something that's there's, but a place that respect. Who they are a place that is beautiful, and that is put together and that cares about who they are. And that's very important to me. And I think to everybody who is at the archives today, LGBT history is documented move freely in extensively even ever before. But as the wheel celebrates pride this month, we would do well to remember the people whose lives anti, we're not giving the attention. They deserved for multiple twenty four in New York on Henry Sheridan.