Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society
On View May 24 – December 1, 2019

New York, NY–May 22, 2019–New-York Historical Society commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the dawn of the gay liberation movement this summer, as New York City welcomes WorldPride, the largest Pride celebration in the world. On view from May 24 – December 1, Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society features two exhibitions and a special installation, as well as public programs for all ages. Stonewall 50 at the New-York Historical Society is proudly sponsored by Bank of America.

Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall (which closes on Sept. 22) explores the history of LGBTQ bars, clubs, and nightlife in New York City during the second half of the 20th century. By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives examines lesbian lives pre- and post-Stonewall. A special installation, Say It Loud, Out and Proud: Fifty Years of Pride, features imagery from New York City Pride marches and other LGBTQ protests from the 1960s to the present day, as well as a timeline of milestones and objects from LGBTQ history. Special public programs—from talks to walking tours to family friendly activities—focus on the advancement of LGBTQ rights and contributions of the community.

“The Stonewall uprising on June 28–July 3, 1969, was a watershed moment in the gay rights movement, and we’re proud to honor its legacy at New-York Historical during this 50th anniversary year,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “The history of New York’s LGBTQ community is integral to a more general understanding of the long struggle for civil rights on the part of LGBTQ Americans. We hope that with our Stonewall exhibitions and displays, our visitors, many of whom will be learning this story for the first time, will come to appreciate the critical role played by Stonewall in helping our nation towards a more perfect union.”

“Bank of America is proud to support Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society,” said Connie Verducci, Metro New York Market Executive, Bank of America. “We celebrate and honor the history of the gay rights movement here in New York City and the Stonewall uprising's impact on the LGBT+ community nationwide. Bank of America is committed to supporting the cultural institutions like New-York Historical Society that bring this important history to life for generations to come. As the first financial institution to incorporate sexual orientation into our non-discrimination policies, Bank of America has an established history of being an inclusive workplace, and we value the diversity of our workforce. We commend New-York Historical Society for the exceptional exhibitions and programming of Stonewall 50, and are happy to lend our support to this.”

Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall highlights the ways in which nightlife has been critical in shaping LGBTQ identity, building community, developing political awareness, and fostering genres of creative expression that have influenced popular culture worldwide. Serving as oases of expression, resilience, and resistance, LGBTQ bars, clubs, and nightlife spaces were hard-won in the face of policing, unfavorable public policies, and Mafia control. The exhibition begins with gay bars in the 1950s and 1960s, a time when such spaces were effectively illegal and policed for “offensive and indecent” behavior. It continues through the rise of the gay liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s and the emergence of LGBTQ clubs as places of community activism in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Featuring more than 180 objects, including flyers, newspapers, photographs, membership cards, and other ephemera, exhibition highlights of Letting Loose and Fighting Back include the exterior sign for the Paradise Garage, a nightlife venue dubbed the “Gay-rage;” roller skates worn by disco icon and activist Rollerena;  buttons from Keller’s, one of the city’s first gay male leather bars, founded in the mid-1950s; a 1978 photograph of a trapeze artist at the Mafia-owned G.G. Knickerbocker’s P.T. Barnum Room, a two-floor disco popular with trans women and their admirers; and a printed handkerchief invitation to artist Keith Haring’s 1984 “Party of Life” birthday celebration at the Paradise Garage. (Please note: This exhibition includes mature content.)

By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives, curated by the Lesbian Herstory Archives Graphics Committee, highlights community-building, organization, and networking within the LGBTQ movement with a focus on the contributions of lesbians and queer women. A grassroots organization established in 1974 in response to the widespread erasure of lesbian lives and voices, the Lesbian Herstory Archives houses the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians. The exhibition features more than 90 objects, including photographs, books and manuscripts, periodicals, posters, zines, flyers, and clothes.

Highlights of By the Force of Our Presence include personal memorabilia of Mabel Hampton (1902–1989), an African American woman who lived her life as a lesbian openly, moving from North Carolina to Harlem and becoming an inspirational figure in the development of the Archives; t-shirts from the pivotal Lavender Menace action in 1970 and Salsa Soul Sisters: Third World Women, the first organization for queer women of color in the U.S.; a denim jacket with painted and embroidered imagery of an alternative woman-centered history and spirituality; and flyers by the Lesbian Avengers, who founded the Dyke March in 1993 that continues in many cities, including NYC, today.

A special installation, Say It Loud, Out and Proud: Fifty Years of Pride, uses imagery from public LGBTQ protests from the 1960s to the present day, animating a timeline of significant moments in national and New York LGBTQ history and illustrating the ways in which the fight for equal rights is constant and ongoing. Objects on view include buttons from the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Silence = Death Collective, Marriage Equality New York, and other LGBTQ rights organizations; publications including Ellen DeGeneres’ 1997 “Yep, I’m Gay” cover story in Time; and Trans Lives Matter bracelets.

Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society is collaboratively curated by Rebecca Klassen, New-York Historical assistant curator of material culture, and from the Center for Women’s History, Jeanne Gardner Gutierrez, curatorial scholar in women’s history, and Rachel Corbman, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation predoctoral fellow in women’s history. By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives is curated by the Lesbian Herstory Archives Graphics Committee—Elvis Bakaitis, Flavia Rando, Ashley-Luisa Santangelo and Saskia Scheffer—and coordinated by the Center for Women’s History.

Throughout the month of June, New-York Historical, joined by the Generations Project, will accept contributions for a time capsule that seeks to preserve LGBTQ history for the next 50 years. Visitors are encouraged to bring photos, hand-written memories, stories, and thoughts on LGBTQ life in New York. The capsule will be opened at the Stonewall 100 celebration in 2069. Please check for dates and times when collection tables will be available.

On May 28, architectural historian Barry Lewis takes a look at Greenwich Village and how the community blossomed again after Stonewall in the 1970s. On May 29, renowned legal scholars discuss landmark Supreme Court cases that deal with LGBTQ rights. On June 4, guides from the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project lead a special walking tour of the Upper West Side that starts at New-York Historical and visits various LGBTQ locations in the neighborhood. On June 5, the Bowery Boys podcast— hosted by Greg Young and Tom Meyers and historian George Chauncey—discuss the city’s rich gay scene in the decades before Stonewall.

On June 7, the Gay & Lesbian Review celebrates the launch of the commemorative book, In Search of Stonewall: The Riots at 50 and ‘The Gay & Lesbian Review’ at 25. On June 13, fashion historian Edward Maeder looks at what people were wearing in 1969 and the style revolution that took place. On July 12, the Center for Women’s History presents a special salon featuring distinguished historian Blanche Wiesen Cook and prizewinning playwright Clare Coss, a pioneering couple who have been together for 50 years.

Family programs celebrate Pride through the month of June with Little-New Yorkers (on Tuesday and Friday afternoons) featuring books like Julián Is a Mermaid and This Day in June. As a prelude to the exhibition, Drag Queen Story Hour pays a visit to New-York Historical on Saturday, May 18.

Support Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society is proudly sponsored by Bank of America. Programs are funded in part by a Humanities New York Action Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support provided by Judy Zankel. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

The exhibitions and installation at New-York Historical are part of the Stonewall 50 Consortium, an organization that brings together nonprofit institutions and organizations committed to producing programming, exhibitions, and educational materials related to the Stonewall uprising and the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in June 2019.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.

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Ines Aslan, New-York Historical Society                                  Julia Esposito, Polskin Arts
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Image credit: National Park Service (founded 1916). Paper fan, 2016. New-York Historical Society

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