NYPL marks 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with new photo exhibition and events

Posted On Thu, February 14, 2019 By

Posted On Thu, February 14, 2019 By In Events, History, photography

Photo by Diana Davies, Gay Liberation Front marches on Times Square, New York, 1970. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

Beginning in the season so many associate with love, the New York Public Library is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots through a major exhibition, a series of programs, book recommendations, and more. “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” chronicles the emergence of LGBTQ activism with over 150 photographs and ephemera. An opening celebration will kick off both the exhibition and the Library After Hours series on Friday, February 15 from 7-10 P.M.

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Photo by Diana Davies, Demonstration at City Hall, New York (From left: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Jane Vercaine, Barbara Deming, Kady Vandeurs, Carol Grosberg, and others), 1973. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

The Stonewall riots were a flash point in LGBTQ history: After the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969, the LGBTQ civil rights movement went from handfuls of pioneering activists to a national movement mobilizing thousands. Discover this progression throughout the 1960s and 70s through the photographs of Kay Tobin Lahusen and Diana Davies—pioneering photojournalists who captured the pivotal events of this era and change the ways LGBTQ people perceived themselves—alongside items from the library’s vast archives.

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Image: Black and Blue vol. 1, no. 5, New York Motor Bike Club, September 1967. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

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Photo by Diana Davies, Martha Shelley sells Gay Liberation Front paper during Weinstein Hall demonstration, 1970. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

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Photo by Diana Davies, “Ida,” member of the Gay Liberation Front and Lavender Menace, 1970. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

Alongside these photographs are posters, flyers, and original documents from the archives of history-making organizations such as the Mattachine Society of New York, Gay Liberation Front, Radicalesbians, and Gay Activists Alliance; the papers of pioneering activists like Barbara Gittings; ephemera from iconic New York city gay and lesbian bars, and rare LGBTQ magazines.

“Stonewall 50” is organized around four themes:

Resistance: The Stonewall riots brought the rise of marches attracting thousands of participants who finally felt emboldened to express themselves to the fullest. Highlights of this section include rare photos of one of the first LGBTQ pickets in the United States at the U.S. Army Induction Center in 1964; posters and flyers from the first LGBTQ pride march, Christopher Street Liberation Day 1970 and much more.

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Photo by Diana Davies. Dance at Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, 1971. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

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Photo by Diana Davies, Stonewall Inn, 1969. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

Bars: Before Stonewall, bars occupied a critical political space. After Stonewall there was a blossoming of dances, bars, and discos for the LGBTQ community. Ephemera from these spaces include invitations to Mardi Gras balls and “Phallic Festivals” from the Mattachine Society of New York, flyers and invitations to iconic clubs like the Mineshaft, Duchess Bar, Flamingo, and the Paradise Garage and more.

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Transvestia no. 16, Los Angeles: Chevalier Publications, 1962. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

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“Homosexuals Are Different…” Mattachine Society of New York, 1960s.

In Print: Before Stonewall there was a network of lesser-known magazines that connected otherwise isolated communities and individuals across the country. After the Stonewall riots, publications helped build a shared culture. Rare magazines on display will include publications for the transgender and drag communities of the 1960s and 1970s, including Transvestia, Drag Queens, and The Voice of the Transexual Action Organization and many more.

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Photo by Diana Davies, Women embracing at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, 1976. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

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Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, Men kissing under a tree, 1977. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

Love: In an era when sex between people of the same gender was considered a crime and depictions of those desires could be considered obscene, depicting authentic LGBTQ relationships was brave and unprecedented. Items featured include hidden images of lesbian lovers from the 1960s and intimate photos of drag parties by filmmaker Avery Willard.

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Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, Jamen Butler (left) and Tom Malim, 1971. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division

“Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” will be open from February 14-July 14, 2019 in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Rayner Special Collections Wing & Print Gallery, Third Floor. Admission is free.

An opening celebration will kick off both the exhibition and the Library After Hours series. On Friday, February 15 from 7-10 P.M., Library After Hours: Love & Resistance invites 21+ guests to celebrate the opening of the Library’s newest exhibition with a night of curator talks, trivia, special guests, and more, exploring the history of LGBTQ civil rights following the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

Friday’s event will feature Drag Queen Story Hour, trivia with Making Gay History podcast host Eric Marcus, drinks/dancing, curator talks, and much more. A full rundown of activities can be found here.

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