Fall 2016

Remembering Stonewall

Photograph by © ALISON ZEMANSKI HEIS/NPCA

A spark, a movement and now, a monument.

On June 26, thousands of participants in New York City’s pride parade marched past the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The route and the cheers weren’t unusual, but the circumstances were: Just two days earlier, President Barack Obama had formally declared the bar and its surrounding area the Stonewall National Monument. It is the first National Park Service site dedicated to telling a piece of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history. In a video about the designation that the White House released, Obama said, “I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country — the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us.”

The 1969 uprising at Stonewall, when patrons of the bar fought back against police harassment, was a major turning point in the modern-day LGBT rights movement. The bar continues to be a symbolic hub and a meeting place: It was the scene of celebration last year when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and crowds gathered there for emotional vigils in June after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

For years, staff at NPCA have advocated for the creation of a park site for Stonewall. “The LGBT movement is really a struggle for human rights and civil rights, and it’s a story that needs to be told,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of NPCA.

Philip Bockman, an original participant in the 1969 protests, told the Washington Post that the start of the riots was “the end of my loneliness” and that he was profoundly affected by the designation. “It feels like it legitimizes me as a U.S. citizen, as a human being, as a part of our country in a way that I’ve never been able to fully feel before,” he said.

—Editors