In 1969, the Stonewall Inn, on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City. At the time, homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense. Many gay establishments, including the Stonewall, were owned by the Mafia and operated without a liquor license and offered little protection from police raids to their often-persecuted clientele. LGBTQ+ customers were frequently arrested for “cross-dressing” with their names and photos published in newspapers as a means of intimidation.
During the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 New York City Police raided the Stonewall Inn but the crowd refused to take the harassment. As the police aggressively forced a woman into a cruiser the crowd became hostile and began throwing bottles, coins, and rocks at the police, who were forced to retreat within the bar. Throughout the night the police continued to arrest and subdue the crowd, but they refused to disburse. Each evening, throughout the week, more protestors gathered at the Stonewall and the surrounding areas and clashed with the police to demand equal rights and the establishment of LGBTQ+ safe spaces. These protestors joined together to eventually form “The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee” which launched the first Gay Pride Week in June 1970.
LGBTQ+ and allies have celebrated Gay Pride Week each year, and in 1999, President Bill Clinton became the first US President to officially recognize Pride Month. The New York Pride Parade is one of the largest and most well-known parades in the world with over 2 million people attending. Pride events now take place each June all over the world. Pride month is also celebrated by the flying of the rainbow flag, the original of which was designed by Gilbert Baker at the request of gay politician and activist Harvey Milk for the San Francisco Pride March. Other ways to commemorate Pride Month include memorials for those lost to HIV/AIDS and extravagant festivities featuring costumes and makeup. Education about the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement has become integral to the celebration. To learn more about the history of the Pride Movement, Pride Month, and the Pride Parade, check out this video from the PBS series “Origin of Everything”: Why is Pride a Parade?
Library of Congress. (n.d.). LGBTQ+ Pride month. The Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/
National Today. (2020, June 1). PRIDE MONTH – June 2020 | National today. https://nationaltoday.com/pride-month/