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Airs Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Lesbian protester and cops, June 28, 1969. When police raided Stonewall Inn, ...

Credit: Courtesy of Bettye Lane

Above: Lesbian protester and cops, June 28, 1969. When police raided Stonewall Inn, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.

Explore why a 1969 police raid on a New York City bar was a turning point in the gay rights movement

When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for days.

The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.

Scheduled in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the actual events, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s “Stonewall Uprising” will have an encore broadcast on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Preview: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Stonewall Uprising

On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided a Greenwich Village Mafia-run gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. For the first time, patrons stood up against the authorities, setting off a three-day riot that launched the modern American Gay Rights Movement.

Based on David Carter’s “Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution,” and told through interviews with Stonewall patrons, reporters and the policeman who led the raid, “Stonewall Uprising” recalls the fervently hostile climate in which the gay community was forced to live.

Stonewall: An Uprising, Not a Riot

In June, 1969, a typical NYPD raid of the Stonewall, a gay bar in New York City, had an unexpected result—gay patrons fought back. Here are some reflections on the Stonewall riots.

The vast majority of medical authorities decreed homosexuality a mental disorder and often prescribed brutal treatment, including lobotomy.

"Curing" Homosexuality

Dangerous "treatments" for eliminating homosexual urges were common in 1950s and 60s.

Homosexual acts were illegal in every state except Illinois and gays frequently found themselves being hauled off to jail, their names splashed in the next day’s newspaper.

Violence Against Gays and Lesbians

In the 1960s, violence was a serious risk for gays and lesbians.

Police entrapment was rampant, and being arrested meant that licenses to teach, practice law, medicine, or cosmetology might be denied or revoked.

The Dangers of Drag

In 1960s New York, gay men who dressed in women's clothing courted danger; "masquerading" was breaking the law.

Even in Greenwich Village, where thousands of people moved to escape the constant oppression of their hometowns, patrons of gay bars were accustomed to frequent police harassment.

But on June 28, 1969, when the N.Y.P.D. raided the Stonewall, the gay community experienced what one Village Voice reporter who was on the scene called it a "Rosa Parks moment.”

The Legacy of the Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall riots inspired gay Americans to fight for their rights. It was another great step forward in the story of human rights.

For the first time, patrons refused to be led into paddy wagons, setting off a violent uprising that launched the gay rights movement.

Exactly one year later, America saw its first Gay Pride Parade as thousands marched up Sixth Avenue.

The First Gay Pride March

Organizers of the first gay pride march had low expectations. Here, they remember the march, held in New York City, one year after the Stonewall riots, in June 1969.


This film will be available for streaming on demand simultaneously with the broadcast for a limited time. Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.


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Written by: David Heilbroner. Directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. In memory of Raymond Castro and Seymour Pine. Edited by Kate Davis. Produced by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. Filmed by Buddy Squires. Music composed by Gary Lionelli. Associate Producer and Advisor: Eric Marcus. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is a production of WGBH Boston. Senior Producer: Susan Bellows. Executive Producer: Mark Samels.

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