Professor of History Marc Stein looks back at 50 years of celebration, resistance at LGBT pride paradesHistorians in the News
tags: social history, interview, LGBTQ history, Pride
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the protests against oppressive police tactics that helped mobilize and transform the gay liberation movement. That’s why 2020 marks the 50th anniversary for LGBTQ pride parades: The now-common celebrations began the year after Stonewall. To commemorate that milestone, we asked San Francisco State University Professor of History Marc Stein — author of “The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History” (NYU Press) — about the origins of the parade, how it’s advanced the gay rights movement and where the movement and parade go from here.
What are the origins of the pride parade?
The idea for “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” which is what the pride parade was originally called, first gained support at a regional LGBT movement conference held in Philadelphia in November 1969, five months after the Stonewall Riots. At that conference, radical gay liberationists argued successfully for the discontinuation of the Annual Reminder gay rights demonstrations that had taken place at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4in 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969. Conference participants agreed that instead of protesting the denial of gay rights at the birthplace of the nation on the nation’s birthday, the LGBT movement should commemorate the Stonewall uprising, when thousands of people protested in the streets of Greenwich Village after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a popular queer bar located on Christopher Street in New York City.
Pride parades first took place in June 1970, 50 years ago, to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion. In 1970, there was a small parade in Chicago, with approximately 200 people, and larger ones in New York and Los Angeles, where thousands of people participated.
In the Bay Area, LGBT activists planned a weeklong series of events to commemorate the first anniversary of Stonewall in June 1970. This included a Hippie Hill “pig roast” in Golden Gate Park on June 21, a gay liberation march from Aquatic Park to the San Francisco Civic Center on June 27 and a “gay-in” at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park on June 28. (The “pig roast,” which also featured bacon sandwiches, was meant to criticize police harassment.) Media reports indicated that 20 to 30 people participated in the march and 200 attended the gay-in, but local police raided the latter and arrested seven people.
In 1971, 1972 and 1973, the number of pride parades around the country and around the world exploded. San Francisco’s first major gay pride parade took place in 1972; estimates of the number of participants ranged from 2,000 to 8,000.