Activism Before Stonewall
The June-July 1969 Stonewall Uprising is widely considered a key turning point in the LGBT rights movement, but efforts to achieve LGBT equality in the United States actually date back to the 1920s when Henry Gerber — who later lived and worked on Governors Island — founded the Society of Human Rights in Chicago.
In the 1950s and ’60s, “homophile” groups such as the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis formed chapters in several cities and openly identified as “homosexuals” at demonstrations and in televised appearances, despite the threat of arrest, being fired from their jobs, or being disowned by their families in the conservative McCarthy era.
This curated collection highlights the little-known history of pre-Stonewall activism in New York as well as the 1970 raid and aftermath of the Snake Pit, which inspired even more people to become involved in the fight for LGBT equality.
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Featured Historic Sites ( 13 )
In June 1969, a week before the Stonewall uprising, a group of local Queens residents formed a “vigilante committee” to harass gay men cruising in a nearby Flushing Meadows-Corona Park... Learn More
Ernestine Eckstein was an influential lesbian of color who was active in the LGBT rights movement in the pre-Stonewall years. While living in this tenement building, from 1964 until 1968,... Learn More
On April 18, 1965, the fourth-ever gay rights demonstration in the United States – and the third in New York City – took place at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, across the... Learn More
On December 2, 1964, the second-ever public demonstration for gay rights in the United States – and the first to challenge the psychiatric profession – took place outside the Great... Learn More
On September 19, 1964, the very first public demonstration for gay rights in the United States took place outside the U.S. Army Building in Lower Manhattan. Organized by Randy Wicker,... Learn More
The Student Homophile League, the first gay student organization in the country, was founded at Columbia University in 1966 and held many of its activities in Earl Hall. In 1970,... Learn More