Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. National Parks in New York City? Yes! There are 11 parks with a total of 23 different sites you can visit in all five boroughs and parts of New Jersey.
Stonewall National Monument is a new National Park unit located in Christopher Park, part of New York City's Historic Greenwich Village. It is a work in progress, with limited services but an important story to tell.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh.
The Stonewall Inn, a bar located in Greenwich Village, New York City, was the scene of events that began the modern struggle for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. In a pattern of harassment of LGBT establishments, police raided the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of June 28, 1969. The reaction of the bar’s patrons and neighborhood residents that assembled in the street was not typical of these kinds of raids.
Instead of dispersing, the crowd became increasingly angry and began chanting and throwing objects as the police arrested the bar's employees and patrons. Police reinforcements were called in, and for several hours they tried to clear the streets while the crowd fought back. The initial raid and the riot that ensued led to six days of demonstrations and conflicts with law enforcement outside the bar, in nearby Christopher Park, and along neighboring streets. At its peak, the crowds included several thousand people.
The events of Stonewall, as the uprising is most commonly referred to, marked a major change in the struggle for what was known at the time as "homophile rights" in the US, with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people beginning to vocally and assertively demand their civil rights. Stonewall is regarded by many as the single most important event that led to the development of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. The riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize and within two years of Stonewall, LGBT rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the U.S. Stonewall was, as historian Lillian Faderman wrote, "the shot heard round the world...crucial because it sounded the rally for the movement.”
To learn more, view the video released by the White House when Stonewall was designated a National Monument in 2016.
Across the street from the Stonewall Inn is George Segal's sculpture, "Gay Liberation." The sculpture was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising by the Mildred Andrews Fund with the requirements that it be installed on public land and that it "had to be loving and caring, and show the affection that is the hallmark of gay people. . . . And it had to have equal representation of men and women."
Stonewall Inn is now a bar and restaurant, open to the public. You can explore Christopher Park daily from 9 am to sunset.
Cover photo: West 4th Street entrance to Christopher Park, with the Stonewall National Monument sign at left, 2016. Photo by Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.