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June 28, 1969: The Spark That Lit The Fire

The History of the Stonewall Uprising

January - April 2019
Free Exhibit at The Center

Opening Reception
Monday, January 14  |  5:30-7:00pm
Light refreshments

The world of LGBTQ people in 1950s and 60s America was remarkably different than today. Prior to 1962, same-sex relationships were a felony in every state, often punished by lengthy prison sentences. Same-sex loving men and women met in secret, fearing the long-term consequences of exposure. Gender nonconforming individuals and cross-dressers might find themselves shunned to the fringes of society. Early efforts at LGBTQ activism had smoldered for years before Stonewall. There had been riots in other gay spaces before. And there had certainly been plenty of police raids at the Stonewall in the past. But the night of June 28, 1969 was different. The anger that erupted when police attempted to arrest patrons of the Stonewall Inn that night sparked a series of riots that would mark the beginning of the contemporary LGBTQ civil rights movement.

What happened that night? Why was this uprising different from those that had come before? How would the riots at a small gay bar in New York go on to inspire generations of activists, building to today’s contemporary movement for LGBTQ equality?