Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall Riots 

            A brief history of US Homosexual oppression in from 1945-1959.

Following WW II, most gay establishments that had popped up during the war closed down with the return of troops from overseas.

The “nuclear family” received heavy promotion from the government as an inexplicable reaction to the Cold War.

HUAC led to the loss of thousands of jobs held by homosexuals in the federal government.

In D.C. alone, over 1000 arrests each year for homosexual acts.

Local papers in every state published lists of those arrested along with their workplace, resulting in termination for many involved.

1948:  Mattachine Society formed by Harry Hay.  This organization encouraged identification of homosexuals as ‘normal’ citizens who preferred to have same sex relationships.

1952 – DSM III defined homosexuality as a pathological hidden fear of the opposite sex that was caused by traumatic parent-child relationship


New York prelude:

Entrapment in early 1960s under Robert F. Wagner, Jr.

–       purchasing a drink or leaving the bar with officers.

John Lindsay stopped entrapment, but…

–       NY State Liquor Authority continued to use its powers to target homosexual establishments

Stonewall Inn:

Mafia owned – Genovese Family

Frequent raids in Greenwich Village before riot.

June 28, 1969

–       uncorroborated link to Judy Garland death.

–       2:00 AM raid.

–       Lineup patrons, check IDS, identify those claiming to be females by checking anatomy (done by female officers).

–       200 patrons

–       Non cooperation by transvestites led to rebellion by men.

–       People gathered outside bar.

–       “Dyke – Stone Butch” tried to escape, hit with billy club for claiming cuffs too tight, thrown into paddywagon, riot breaks out.

–       Folk Singer Von Rank and several other individuals were forcibly barricaded with police in the Stonewall Inn in an attempt to avoid being harmed after 500-600 in crowd started pelting them with coins and debris.

–       “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t” – Michael Fader

–       Homeless youth

–       Tactical Police Force arrives to free those trapped.  The Tactical Police Force was a precursor to the modern SWAT teams armed with shields and truncheons.

–       Transvestites led charge against police.

–       “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We don’t wear underwear/ We show our pubic hairs”


On the 29th, the events essentially repeated although the Tactical Police Force arrived earlier, ~2:00 AM

–       Ginsberg: “Gay power! Isn’t that great!… It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves”

–       “You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago”

Mattachine Society

Upset at the nature of revolt, “screaming queens forming chorus lines and kicking went against everything that I wanted people to think about homosexuals … that we were a bunch of drag queens in the Village acting disorderly and tacky and cheap.”

Village Voice:

– Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott, that included unflattering descriptions of the events and its participants: “forces of faggotry,” “limp wrists” and “Sunday fag follies”.

– Within six months of the Stonewall riots, activists started a city-wide newspaper called Gay; they considered it necessary because the most liberal publication in the city—The Village Voice—refused to print the word “gay” in GLF advertisements seeking new members and volunteer

Led to first homosexual alliances to openly use the word Gay in their name:

Gay Liberation Front

Annual Gay Pride March in NYC (oldest Gay Pride March) – Still called a march (not a parade) until equal rights are guaranteed for homesexuals.


House Un-American Activities Committee



House Un-American Activities Committee

Established 1937 under Martin Dies

Investigated lleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties


Overman Committee (1918-1919) – Investigated German and Bolshevik elements in USA

Fish Committee (1930) – Investigated ACLU and Communist Presidential nominee Zach Foster

Special Committee on Un-American Activities to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities (1934-1937) – “information on how foreign subversive propaganda entered the U.S. and the organizations that were spreading it.”


Martin Dies (D-Texas) 1937-1944

Vice Chairman Samuel Dickstein (D-NY) – later revealed to be a NKVD agent.

Initially established as a special investigating committee (temporary)

In 1946 considered investigating KKK, but decided against it, prompting anti-black (aka racist) member John E. Rankin (D-MS) to remark “”After all, the KKK is an old American institution.”  In 1965-65 did investigate the KKK under Edwin Willis (D-LA)

Initially concentrated on Communist infiltration of WPA, specifically Federal Theatre Project and Federal Writers’ Project.  Lead to shutdown of Federal Theatre Project and Federal Writers’ Project in 1939.

Starnes (D-AL) asked Flanagan, head of FTP, if Marlowe was a member of the Communist Party and mused that Euripides taught class warfare.

Investigated American Youth Congress members in 1939

Whittaker Chambers testified in 1948 that numerous federal government figures were spies, including Alger Hiss.

Some guy named Richard Nixon was a member of the Committee during the Alger Hiss hearings

Hiss convicted of perjury as a Communist spy during pre-war era.  Hiss had attended the Yalta Conference and helped draft the UN constitution and served as Secretary-General of the UN Charter Conference.

Declined following the downfall of Senator McCarthy.

In 1959 was being derided by Truman as the “most un-American thing in the country today”.

Abolished in 1975.



“Howl” was considered to be obscene literature in the 1950’s. After reading it Monday in class I would agree, but who am I? And by the way who are “They” ? Not the they that said the book is obscene but the “they the book speaks of. I would like to know who Allen Ginsberg was thinking of when he wrote the poem.

– Carolyn

Herbert Huncke — Evan Donahue

Herbert Huncke and the Old Times Square

“Waves of hostility and suspicion flowed out from his large brown eyes like some sort of television broadcast. The effect was almost like a physical impact. The man was small and very thin, his neck loose in the collar of his shirt. His complexion faded from brown to a mottled yellow, and pancake make-up had been heavily applied in an attempt to conceal a skin eruption. His mouth was drawn down at the corners in a grimace of petulant annoyance.”  — William Burroughs

Herbert Huncke was born on January 9, 1915 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He died August 8, 1996 in New York City. “The rare blend of sub-culture icon, writer, homosexual pioneer (he participated in Alfred Kinsey’s studies), drug addict, [and] common criminal.” Huncke grew up in Chicago, the son of a businessman, where he learned his way around the streets. Drawn to crime and the mystique of theft and city life, he was known to have hopped a few trains in his time. In 1939, he moved to New York City, where he quickly bonded with Burroughs over a drug deal, and met Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. They admired him for his “honest criminal ethic.” Known as the “Mayor of 42nd Street,” Huncke’s reputation preceded him in the community. He was inspired by the life and grit of Times Square. It was Huncke who allegedly introduced Jack Kerouac to the term “beat” that he used to describe their generation. Dabbled in writing with “The Evening Sun Turned Crimson” and “Huncke’s Journal,” his most famous published story being “Elsie John,” which appeared in The Beat Reader.  “His true function in the Beat Generation was to act as a muse to those such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, [men] with more sophisticated talents but far less knowledge of the below-street-level ‘beat’ world.”

After WWI, Times Square garnered the nickname “The Tenderloin” because it was the most desirable part of town. This desire led to high crime rates and corruption, and once the Great Depression hit, Times Square became one of the worst places to be in Manhattan. After WWII and the rush to the suburbs, the only people left in Times Square were the criminals. There was no room for a white picket fence and a four bedroom house between 42nd and 47th. During the late fifties and sixties, Times Square was the hotspot for gambling, drugs, prostitution, and the leaders of the Beat Generation. Times Square became the symbol of the city’s decline, and in the eighties, corporations vowed to shift this attitude, creating the tourist trap we all know and love/hate today.


I’m with you in Rockland: Howl’s Obscenity Trial vs. the SOPA Act

We all read Ginsberg’s “Howl” for class today. “Howl” as a poem is seen as one of the most influential works of the Post WWII era and for good reason. I feel like the most important thing “Howl” did came in the aftermath of its obscenity trial in 1957. On March 25 of that year, the 520 copies of “Howl” that were published in London were seized by US customs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Shig Murao were arrested for publishing and selling the book. The reason for the trial was its often graphic discussion of sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, and drug use. At the end of the trial, “Howl” was deemed to have “redeeming social importance” and was acquitted. This was a win for America in that it upheld the notion of free speech.

That being said, recently there has been much debate about censorship, especially in regard to the internet with the looming SOPA act (if you don’t know what it is here is a link to the Wikipedia page:; it’s absolutely ridiculous on various levels, but that is another debate). To sum it up, this bill is mostly focused on stopping online piracy. But under the bills current terms, it makes any unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material a felony. The punishment? Could be up to five years in prison for a first offense. Entire websites including the likes of Youtube, Twitter and Facebook could be shut down after just one copyright violation. What is considered a copyright violation under the bill? You know that video you posted on Youtube of you and your friend dancing to that Lady Gaga song as a joke? You could face prison time for that.

The ruling in the “Howl” obscenity trial set a precedent for freedom of speech and, in a way, paved the way for revolution. In today’s technology driven world, similar revolutions are driven by social media sites like Twitter (think the Arab Spring). Without them, what will happen? Do you see the similarity between the “Howl” obscenity trial and the current SOPA act? What are your feelings?

The Beats

The Beats—the basics

  • The Beat Generation was comprised of a group of post WWII authors; most notable of them are Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs
  • The best known literature from the movement are Ginsberg’s Howl, Kerouac’s On the Road and Burroughs’s Naked Lunch
  • The Beats were known for experimental drug use, interest in Eastern religion, alternative forms of sexuality, rejection of  materialism and celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity
  • Influences include Romanticism, early American writers including Thoreau, Emerson and especially Whitman, French surrealism and Modernism.

Allen Ginsberg and the Six Gallery Reading

  • On October 7, 1955, Allen Ginsberg and five others read for a group of 100 people at the first Six Gallery reading in San Francisco.
  • It was Ginsberg’s first public reading and he read the first finished par of Howl.
  • It was a success that led to many more readings by the Six Gallery poets
  • This was viewed as the marker for the beginning of the Beat Movement: after the reading, Howl was published in 1956 then was tried for obscenity in 1957 brining it national attention.

Influence on Western Society

In 1982, Ginsberg published a summary of “the essential effects” of the Beat Generation:[33]

  • Spiritual liberation, sexual “revolution” or “liberation,” i.e. gay liberation, somewhat catalyzing women’s liberation, black liberation, Gray Panther activism
  • Liberation of the world from censorship.
  • Demystification and/or decriminalization of cannabis and other drugs.
  • The evolution of rhythm and blues into rock and roll as a high art form, as evidenced by the BeatlesBob Dylan, and other popular musicians influenced in the later fifties and sixties by Beat generation poets’ and writers’ works.
  • The spread of ecological consciousness, emphasized early on by Gary Snyder and Michael McClure, the notion of a “Fresh Planet.”
  • Opposition to the military-industrial machine civilization, as emphasized in writings of Burroughs, Huncke, Ginsberg, and Kerouac.
  • Attention to what Kerouac called (after Spengler) a “second religiousness” developing within an advanced civilization.
  • Return to an appreciation of idiosyncrasy as against state regimentation.
  • Respect for land and indigenous peoples and creatures, as proclaimed by Kerouac in his slogan from On the Road: “The Earth is an Indian thing.
(from Wikipedia)

 They were very influential to the sixties counterculture and hippies. Huge influences on various rock artists with Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Doors citing the Beat Generation as a big influence.

Herbert Marcuse and the One-Dimensional Man


  • One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society was written by the philosopher Herbert Marcuse in 1964.
  • According to Marcuse, modern or “advanced industrial society” thought created what he called “false needs” among other problems.
  • Marcuse took umbrage with modern views on art, popular culture, government, mass-media, how technology is used, and shallow philosophy all used as forms of social control and domination of the individual.
  • Marcuse places Socrates as a martyr because he was executed for violating the codes of the Athenian state.  He draws attention to those who society abandons or scorns in order to avoid going against popular opinion or to maintain status quo just for the sake of itself.
  • One-Dimensional Man is interesting because it critiqued both the Soviet model of communism in addition to the American model of capitalism and free market economy.  He disparaged what he saw as problems that Western democratic nations bred: the confusion between true needs and wants and the conditioning of a consumerist society.  Marcuse claims that communism is no better at avoiding a constructed tyranny of the majority.
  • Marcuse complains about the public’s over-eagerness to accept what the government does and compares it to science.  He identifies the largest contributor in the acceptance of both in that either tend rarely questioned by the One-Dimensional Man because they are too complicated for him to understand and due to his conditioning he does not make the effort to.
  • A One-Dimensional Man is one who has been conditioned by the market to believe he needs things he does not, conditioned by the government to trust it based on nothing, and conditioned by society to believe these are not problems.

~Brett Wilson