Raw Images From The Explosive Early Days Of The Gay Rights Movement

Published November 23, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017
Gay Rights Movement Stonewall
The Stonewall riots occurred in the early hours of June 28, 1969 in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar that served openly gay customers. Wikimedia

Time Pickets
The Gay Liberation Front picketing at the Time-Life Building in New York, in response to a 1969 article that emphasized the effeminate side of homosexuality to the exclusion of everyone else in the community. New York Public Library

Glf Time
The Gay Liberation Front urging Time magazine to not attempt to dictate morality in New York, 1969. New York Public Library

Times Square
Three participants in the Gay Liberation Front march on Times Square, New York City, 1969. New York Public Library

Glf March
The Gay Liberation Front marches on Times Square, New York City, 1969. New York Public Library

Worst Fear
A demonstrator named Donna Gottschalk holds a poster reading "I am your worst fear, I am your best fantasy" at the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day parade in New York, 1970. New York Public Library

Marry One
Child holding poster "But would you want your daughter to marry one?" New York Public Library

Marsha Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson — gay liberation and AIDS activist — hands out flyers for support of gay students at N.Y.U. during the Weinstein Hall Demonstration in 1970. New York Public Library

Sit In
Demonstrators Tom Doerr and Marty Robinson in 1970 during the Gay Activists Alliance sit-in at New York State Republican headquarters in NYC.New York Public Library

March Rights
Participants in the Christopher Street Liberation Day march, 1970. New York Public Library

Martha Shelley
Martha Shelley sells the Gay Liberation Front paper in 1970 during the Weinstein Hall demonstration at New York University.New York Public Library

Frank Kameny
Frank Kameny (left), an American gay rights activist and first openly gay candidate to run for Congress. Pictured with Hernan Figueroa, 1971. New York Public Library

Christopher Street
Signs displayed on Christopher Street Liberation Day, June 20, 1971. New York Public Library

Liberation Day
Christopher Street Liberation Day, June 20, 1971. New York Public Library

Albany Ny
The 1971 march on Albany in New York. New York Public Library

Beautiful Revolution
A woman at the gay rights demonstration, Albany, New York, 1971. New York Public Library

Government Bedrooms
A poster imploring the government to stay out of people's bedrooms seen at Christopher Street Liberation Day in 1971.New York Public Library

Opposite Of Gay
Marchers on Christopher Street Liberation Day in 1971. New York Public Library

Women March
Women march to support writer and activist Kate Millett's battle with Time magazine, which had publicly outed Millett as bisexual.New York Public Library

Straights For Gays
Crowd with "Straights for Gays" sign, at the Philadelphia gay pride rally and march, 1972.New York Public Library

Barbara Gittings
Barbara Gittings, a prominent American activist for gay equality, talks to a reporter at the Philadelphia gay pride rally, 1972.New York Public Library

Gaa New Jersey
Representatives of the Gay Activists Alliance of New Jersey at the "Hold Hands" demonstration, 1973.New York Public Library

Intro 475
People gather in support of passing the 1973 "Intro 475" gay rights bill at City Hall in New York. New York Public Library

Kady Vandeurs
Kady Van Deurs, author and activist, and Marsha P. Johnson at a rally for "Intro 475" in 1973. New York Public Library

Nyc 1976
A 1976 gay rights demonstration at the Democratic National Convention, New York City. Wikimedia Commons

Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California sitting in front of Castro Camera on Castro Street in San Francisco, 1977. Milk would be assassinated by a colleague in November 1978. Flickr/HARVEY MILK ARCHIVES-SCOTT SMITH COLLECTION, HORMEL GAY & LESBIAN CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY.

Milk Rioters
In an event which would later become known as the White Night riots, rioters outside San Francisco City Hall the evening of May 21, 1979. These demonstrators came in response to the voluntary manslaughter verdict of Dan White, who killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone. This conviction ensured White would serve only five years for the double murders of two gay rights heroes.Wikimedia Commons

Following a tumultuous presidential election cycle and standing at the very beginning of what to many appears to be an administration with the capacity (and potentially desire) to roll back many civil rights gains, it's worth looking back to a period of time when Americans -- particularly gay Americans -- fought for those rights to begin with.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots marked the tipping point in the gay rights movement, bringing increased visibility to the LGBT cause. Over the 1970s, the gay rights movement would go global and become increasingly normalized: The decade saw everything from the historic march on Albany in 1971 to the first openly gay political candidates to widespread decriminalization of the LGBT community.

All these marches, sit-ins, and rallies tipped the scales further toward equality. And now is not the time to quit the battle for equality. In fact, no such time exists. Doing so would be a disservice to not only future generations, but to the individuals in the photos above who fought tooth and nail to have something to be taken away in the first place.


Next, step back in time to see 1960s San Francisco in the height of Hippie Power. Then, take a look at this chilling survey of gay rights around the world.

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.