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SIGNIFICANCE

As the first openly homosexual public official in


the United States, Harvey Milk was a pioneer. His
charisma, his speeches, and his entrance into the heterosexual power base of San Francisco gave the homosexual community hope that they would someday live
in a world free of persecution. Milk never tolerated
low self-esteem, and he supported gay pride efforts by
stressing the need for homosexuals to make themselves known in the community.
Compared to other historic figures, Milks legend
has remained mostly intact. Given his brief time in
office and his refusal to sanitize his personal life, there
have been few revelations since the 1982 publication
of a biography of Milk by Randy Shilts.
In the years since his murder, Milk has become a
martyr of the gay rights movement. He is far better
known now than he was in his lifetime. He has been
immortalized in a Broadway play, a made-for-TV
movie, in the first gay-themed film to win an Academy
Award (The Times of Harvey Milk in 1984), in a
New York City high school for gay and lesbian children, in an opera, and in books. In San Francisco, an
elementary school, a civic plaza, a restaurant, a queer
cultural institute, and library bear Milks name. He is
invoked as a symbol of the gains that gay men and lesbians have made and their continuing struggle for
equality.
FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Hinkle, Warren. Gayslayer!: The Story of How Dan White


Killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone and Got Away
With Murder. Virginia City, NV: Silver Dollar, 1985.
Periodicals

Shilts, Randy. Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of


Harvey Milk. New York: St. Martins Press, 1982.
Web sites

Time. The Time 100: Harvey Milk. <http://www.time.


com/time/time100/heroes/profile/milk01.html>
(accessed April 2, 2006).

Radio transcript
By: National Public Radio
Date: July 1, 1989

I S S U E S

utive Producer. Remembering Stonewall. Weekend


All Things Considered. National Public Radio, July 1,
1989.

About the Author: Sound Portraits Productions is an independent production company dedicated to telling stories that bring neglected American voices to a national
audience. Most Sound Portraits Productions are broadcast on National Public Radio. The participants in the
Stonewall riots interviewed for the program included
Sylvia Rivera, Seymour Pine, and Howard Smith.
INTRODUCTION

The Stonewall, often a term used to denote a


larger group of social rebellions, was the name of a
popular New York City gay bar. Located in Greenwich Village (in lower Manhattan), an eclectic section
of the city known for its vibrant culture celebrating
homosexuals, writers, artists, and a younger crowd,
the Stonewall Inn was not unique nor alone in its cultural appeal.
On June 27, 1969, police raided the local hangout,
and shortly after one A.M., (June 28) rioting began. The
initial start of the conflict is uncertainsome say that
a burly patron lunged a garbage can filled with empty
liquor bottles at a police car, and others note that a
drag-queen (a man dressed in womens clothing) resisted arrest. The central point, however, remains clear.
On this Friday night, the atmosphere in New Yorks
gay community would change, and in succeeding years,
the nation would see the after-effects of this event and
demand change in social attitudes and decorum.
Prior to the initial night of riots, police would
normally enter a known gay arena, declare a raid, and
patrons would show their identification and leave, not
show ID and be arrested, or sometimes those with ID
were arrested. There is no clear direction in how these
arrests and raids took place, but prior to Stonewall,
they were generally quiet and non-resistant. Yet, in
June 1969, patrons forcefully acted out against the
police, and within five days over 1000 people were
gathered in front of Stonewall Inn. An active gay
resistance movement to social policy had begun.
Throughout the United States, protest groups
publicly voiced their concerns and aspirations for gay
rights, and Stonewall represents a smaller part of that
chaotic picture. Prior to Stonewall, police frequently
would arrest gay couples for indecent exposure. These
acts of indecent exposure often involved gay couples
merely holding hands or kissing in public places, but
social codes and understandings allowed police to
apply the law liberally. Police departments often tar-

Remembering Stonewall

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Source: Sound Portraits Productions, Dave Isay, Exec-

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People gather outside the Stonewall Inn in New Yorks Greenwich Village, June 24, 1994.

geted gay communities because the larger community


demanded that action be taken to remove the gay subculture, and many individuals feared anyone that did
not fit the social norm.
Many religious and political groups aligned to
support gay rights, just as many similar organizations
united to denounce gay culture and life choices. Frequently, gay communities were targeted as unclean,
harbors for child-molesters, social deviants, and some
individuals feared that being homosexual was a disease. Hence, Stonewall was an intense reaction to a
society that (up to this point) forced individuals to
hide their identities and live in fear. Gay persons
feared loosing their homes, jobs, and families if their
sexual choices were discovered.

! PRIMARY SOURCE
RIVERA: People started gathering in front of the Sheridan
Square Park right across the street from Stonewall.

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AP IMAGES

People were upset No, were not going to go!


and people started screaming and hollering.
PINE: One drag queen, as we put her in the car, opened
the door on the other side and jumped out. At which
time we had to chase that person and he was
caught, put back into the car, he made another
attempt to get out the same door, the other door, and
at that point we had to handcuff the person. From
this point on, things really began to get crazy.
PINE: Well thats when all hell broke loose at that point.
And then we had to get back into Stonewall.
HOWARD SMITH: My name is Howard Smith. On the
night of the Stonewall riots I was a reporter for the
Village Voice, locked inside with the police, covering
it for my column. It really did appear that that crowd
because we could look through little peepholes in the
plywood windows, we could look out and we could
see that the crowdwell, my guess was within five,
ten minutes it was probably several thousand people.
Two thousand easy. And they were yelling, Kill the
cops! Police brutality! Lets get em! Were not going
to take this anymore! Lets get em!

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THE LESBIAN

PINE: We noticed a group of persons attempting to


uproot one of the parking meters, at which they did
succeed. And they then used that parking meter as a
battering ram to break down the door. And they did
in fact open the doorthey crashed it inand at that
point was when they began throwing Molotov cocktails into the place. It was a situation that we didnt
know how we were going to be able control.

Source: de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, translated


and edited by H.M. Parshley. New York: Knopf, 1993.
About the Author: The French feminist writer and
philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (19081986) is one
of the most important figures in twentieth-century
thought. She is the author of Le Deuxime Sexe (The
Second Sex), one of the founding texts of modern
Western feminism.
INTRODUCTION

SIGNIFICANCE

Expressions of protest at Stonewall mirrored the


concurrent protests against U.S. involvement in the
Vietnam conflict and those of the civil rights movement (most commonly remembered from the late
1950s and early 1960s with Martin Luther King Jr.
and Birmingham). As the heated social atmosphere of
1969 quickly turned into the turbulent decade of the
1970s, protesters continually used these expressions.
In each instance, the protests shouted may have stood
for a different social agenda, but with each use they
still maintained the same overall meaningfreedom
of choice and rights.
Stonewall forced the nation to reexamine its
interaction with homosexual communities, and the
riots are still commemorated each year with Gay Pride
Day. This celebration is usually the last Sunday in
June, when cities across the United States host parades
and other festivities honoring gay lifestyles.
FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Carter, David. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2005.
Web sites

American Civil Liberties Union. Lesbian and gay Rights.


<http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/index.html> (accessed April
10, 2006).
Stonewall Revisited. <http://www.stonewallrevisited.com/>
(accessed April 10, 2006).

Simone de Beauvoir authored The Second Sex


(1949) and other existential books exploring sexuality
and the gender roles of women in history. One of the
few female intellectuals of the twentieth century to
achieve international fame and a pioneering feminist,
de Beauvoir is a widely read and highly controversial
figure.
The elder of two daughters, de Beauvoir was born
in Paris on January 9, 1908. She met existentialist
Jean-Paul Sartre when both were philosophy students
at the University of Paris, Sorbonne. The two were
together for more than fifty years but never married,
lived in separate apartments, and frequently had affairs
with younger partners. Sartre was jealous of de Beauvoirs greater intellectual reputation, one that she
earned with a series of philosophical books as well as
essays, novels, and plays. Although she did not identify
as a feminist at the time that she wrote The Second Sex,
de Beauvoir became a womens rights activist and
remained active in radical feminist causes until her
death in 1986.
The Second Sex, a two-volume work, is de Beauvoirs groundbreaking study of the situation of women
from prehistory to the late 1940s. It famously introduced the idea that one is not born, but rather
becomes, a woman. De Beauvoir argued that there is
no natural feminity or masculinity or any maternal
instinct. A woman becomes her gender by learning to
conform to patriarchal societys requirements that she
exist inauthentically.
De Beauvoir approached womens oppression
from a materialist viewpoint. She believed that women
could only achieve freedom by becoming economically free. She saw patriarchy as a social system in
which women and men formed different classes with
different interests. Critics of de Beauvoirs work
believe that The Second Sex is fundamentally flawed by
an oppositional conception of male and female, an
inadequate understanding of the structure of the social
world, and a commitment to the existentialist belief in
the possibility of absolute free choice.

The Lesbian
Book excerpt
By: Simone de Beauvoir
Date: 1949

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