Belated awareness of the Stonewall Uprising


Do you ever feel as if you missed out on one entire chapter of life as it is happening around you?  That’s how I’m feeling about the Stonewall Uprising.  Knowing that my knowledge base was minimal I made a point last week to watch the PBS American Experience documentary – the story has been on my mind ever since.  In June 1969 I was alive, awake, in touch with many gay friends and gay students at the college where I was working in DC.  How did I miss that whole story?  And why has it taken me forty plus year to even try learn more about Stonewall and its place in our collective history?

It’s too late to go back, but I go forth with a new recognition of the import of that pivotal moment in American history.  Even more, I have a deeper understanding of what had gone before.  In my cocoon I simply did not understand the limits, insults, pain of gays in this country.  I was wrapped up in advocacy for civil and voting rights, seemingly oblivious to the parallel pain of the gay community in which I was living and working every day.

The Stonewall Uprising documentary, 90 minutes in length, opens a door.  PBS offers some supplementary reading and other resources. Needless to say, there are countless accounts of the occasion and the reality that led to that momentous confrontation.  There have been other documentaries, personal stories, dramatic presentations and more.  I’m wondering now if Stonewall has made the history textbooks….

This community offers rich resources that preserve the record.   For decades the Quatrefoil Library has collected stories of the pre-Stonewall era and reflections on the impact of the resistance of the gay community to police intrusion.  The Jean-Nicholas Tretter Collection  at the University of Minnesota Andersen Library is a treasure trove of GLBT history.

Clearly, I have much to learn.  Painful as our nation’s history may be, it is at our peril that we go blindfolded into the future, as I have clearly done for far too long.