Stonewall Inn: The History of NYC Pride + 2020 Virtual Celebrations

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New York City Pride has been celebrated during the month of June for over 50 years and is one of the largest annual Pride marches in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants and even more spectators. But it’s more than just fun events and parties — there are lectures, rallies, cultural learnings, and support dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.

NYC Pride, however, officially grew from the June 1969 riots that launched a movement for the LGBTQ+ rights that is still in motion today. The NYC Pride Parade is one of the biggest parts of NYC Pride, along with the Rally, PrideFest, and Pride Island events. But with COVID-19 still a major health concern, the in-person events have been canceled to keep all participants safe. However, there are still ways to celebrate NYC Pride. Keep reading below to learn about the roots of this historic event and how you can celebrate virtually this year. 

stonewall inn history

The Stonewall Inn Riots 

In the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, New York City police officers raided a gay bar on Christopher Street called the Stonewall Inn. Unfortunately, police raids on gay bars were routine during that time in history, but on this day, the patrons fought back. Violence spread through Greenwich Village over the next several days, with order finally being restored on July 3rd. The events during that six-day period are considered a major turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, with a large number of groups forming around the country over the following years. As historian Lillian Faderman has written, Stonewall was “the shot heard round the world…crucial because it sounded the rally for the movement.”

The Long-Term Impact of Stonewall 

stonewall inn new york city

While the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights did not technically start at Stonewall, the event set off a major phase of the gay liberation movement, which created more political action and purpose during the 1970s. At the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first annual Christopher Street Liberation Day March {later known as the Gay Pride March and then the LGBTQ+ Pride March, as we know it today} took place in New York and in cities across the country. Over the following years, the number of marches grew not only nationally, but globally as well. 

See More: Hudson Pride: Serving the LGBTQ+ Population in Hudson County

gay liberation sculpture

The year of 1989 marked the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and was celebrated by having a section of Christopher Street in front of the Stonewall Inn renamed to Stonewall Place. Stonewall was further memorialized with the installation of George Segal’s sculpture Gay Liberation in Christopher Park in 1992. Stonewall became the first LGBTQ+ site in the country to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and it was named a National Historic Landmark in 2000, with additional recognition by city, state, and federal governments in 2015 and 2016.

Still today, members of the LGBTQ+ community from around the world come to visit Stonewall, which has become a symbol of civil rights, solidarity, and remembrance. On June 26th, 2015, a crowd gathered in celebration after the United States Supreme Court declared state bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional and a year later, people mourning the victims of the June 12th, 2016, mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, left flowers and messages on the streets in front of Stonewall.

“We’ve come a long way in the past year and in the [years] since Stonewall. In the next year — and in the next 43 — the LGBT community will make more progress and claim more victories. And each June, we will pause to remember, and we will celebrate Pride,” wrote Lambda Legal, a national nonprofit organization that’s committed to achieving recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and everyone living with HIV.

Pride 2020 Celebrations

{Photo via @nycpride}

Back on April 20th, 2020, Heritage of Pride announced that the NYC Pride 2020 events, which were scheduled for June 14th-28th, will not take place as planned for the safety of the community due to COVID-19.

“New York City is the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. We’ve come a long way since the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March 50 years ago, which is a testament to the bravery and resiliency of LGBTIA+ New Yorkers in the struggle for equality,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. “While this pandemic prevents us from coming together to march, it will in no way stop us from celebrating the indelible contributions that the LGBTIA+ community has made to New York City or from recommitting ourselves to the fight for equal rights.”

Even though there are changes in the events and programs, NYC Pride will still focus on initiatives like Pride Gives Back — a grant program that was created to support LGBTQIA+ organizations from some of the most marginalized communities to develop much-needed programming. 

“WABC Channel 7 will continue to support Heritage of Pride this year by broadcasting a special NYC Pride programming event in June to all communities across the NYC and tri-state area. This virtual event will shine a light on Pride month and the incredible stories of unity and strength by utilizing the powerful reach of ABC-7, the number one station in the market, and the deep connection we have with our viewers and communities,” said Debra O’Connell, WABC-TV’s president and general manager.

Read More: Virtual Pride Events Happening in Hoboken + Jersey City

The board and membership of Heritage of Pride have agreed to participate in the virtual Global Pride event on Saturday, June 27th, 2020 as well, when organizations from across the globe will come together to celebrate Pride 2020. Those who tune in will enjoy music performances, speeches, and addresses by public figures. There will be 24 hours of streaming content that reflects and celebrates the diversity of LGBTI+ communities from all over. Click here to sign up for the event and learn more about what to expect.

Although Pride and Pride celebrations are looking a little different this year, one thing remains true – the impact of Stonewall will live on in history.

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Written by:

Morgan is a career copywriter and copy editor with a background in small business marketing. Her professional work has been across many business verticals such as medical, web security, health + wellness, lifestyle, and consumer goods. She also had an original play produced at the Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken in June 2019. When not writing, she can be found in Sephora buying unnecessary amounts of makeup or teaching a yoga class at the Hudson Yoga Project. She works from her home office in Hoboken with her rescue dog Bowie.