Stonewall 50: The Sound of Memory

By NYPL Staff
June 21, 2019

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The Stonewall Riots were a flash point in LGBTQ history. After the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969, the LGBTQ civil rights movement went from handfuls of pioneering activists to a national movement mobilizing thousands.

An image of Marsha P Johnson with the words: Stonewall 50: The Sound of Memory. A special podcast episode from the New York Public Library.

On this special episode we’ll hear what happened over the nights of the riots through archival audio of iconic transgender rights activists Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.  NYPL's Jason Baumann returns for an interview with pioneering photojournalist and gay rights activist Kay Tobin Lahusen. Plus stories from Eric Marcus' podcast Making Gay History, and the story of Stormé DeLarverie from the archives at The Schomburg Center

For more, listen to last week’s episode, “Before Stonewall” featuring Frank Collerius, Manager of the Jefferson Market branch at NYPL, interviewing writer and curator Hugh Ryan about his new book When Brooklyn was Queer. We also heard a reading of 'The How and Why of Virginia,' the personal story of Virginia Prince, the founder and editor of the magazine 'Transvestia,' read by actor LeLand Gantt.

Also mentioned:

This special episode of Library Talks was produced by Gabrielle Galanek, Schuyler Swenson, and Richert Schnorr. And our theme music was composed by Allison Layton-Brown. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Click here to find out how to subscribe and listen to the Library Talks podcast.




[ Music ]

>> You're listening to Library Talks, The New York Public Library. I'm your Host, Aidan Flax-Clark. It's the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots this year, and last week on the show we heard voices talking about experiences in New York from before Stonewall and this week we're going to hear voices talking about what it was like during June 1969. These are voices and images from the Library's archives, interviews with the documentarians, themselves, talking about the meaning of Stonewall and the momentum that it gave to the LGBTQ movement. And back with me on the show to talk about all this is Jason Baumann. Hi, Jason.

>> Hi.

>> Jason is the Library's Assistant Director for Collections and he's the Coordinator of the LGBTQ Collections. And we're going to take you into our archives at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, our digital collections with Historian Eric Marcus, and an interview with pioneering Photo Journalist Kay Tobin Lahusen. Kay's photos are featured in our exhibit, Love and Resistance, Stonewall 50, which you can view now at the NYPL for about another month. But first we're going to hear a reading of Mother Stonewall and the Golden Rats by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, which is featured in the Stonewall Reader, which you edited, Jason, yeah?

>> Yes.

>> Why did you choose Mother Stonewall and the Golden Rats to be in the Stonewall Reader?

>> As I went through the things that have been written about Stonewall and really things by people who were there I think Lanigan-Schmidt's piece is really one of the most poetic and beautiful, but I think it also speaks to the kinds of people who participated in Stonewall and he really talks about the many queer youth and gender nonconforming and transgender youths who were living in the Village in the late 1960s and who were really on the front lines of this conflict with the police. A lot of times with Stonewall it has been portrayed just as gay men, often it's white gay men, and I think with Lanigan-Schmidt you really see the diversity and also the complexion of that group.

>> Okay, here is Mother Stonewall and the Golden Rats.

>> We sat on the curb gutter around the corner from a dance bar called the Stonewall. He had wounds sutured up and down his arms. The Army had rejected him for being a queer and his father had thrown him out of the house through a glass door.

>> I had left home for the last time, too. I was supposed to be on a ditch digging, road repair summer job crew with a bunch of jerks I'd gone to school with, and they'd have buried me alive just for the fun of it. So I up and went to New York City with just the clothes on my back.

>> One queen had an enormous burn scar covering her face and most of her body. Her mother didn't want men to be tempted by her son's beauty. We lived in cheap hotels, broken down apartments, abandoned buildings or on the street. Home was where the heart is.

>> Well, some of us were able to get menial jobs.

>> Some of us were on Welfare.

>> While some of us hustled.

>> And some of us panhandled.

>> And begged for money on the street.

>> Food was where you found it. Many of us have gotten thrown out of home before finishing high school. We were street rats. Puerto Rican.

>> Black.

>> Northern and Southern whites.

>> Debbie the dike.

>> And a Chinese queen named Jade East.

>> The sons and daughters of postal workers, welfare mothers.

>> Mechanics, cab drivers and nurse's aids.

>> Just to name a few.

>> Until properly introduced it was to call everybody Miss Thing, after this it was a discretionary usage.

>> Now I strongly objected when a queen called Opera Jean called me Mary, but I'm a man, Mary, Grace, Alice, what's the difference, after all we're all sisters, aren't we? One in essence and undivided.

>> So she was headstrong, so I stopped complaining. Now I ended up being called Violet by a black queen named Nova.

>> We all ended up together at a place called the Stonewall.

>> Safe and sound. All you had to do was find an empty beer can so the waiter would think you bought a drink and the night was yours.

>> A replica of a wishing well stood near the back bar of one of the two large rooms painted black.

>> The jukebox played a lot of Motown music and we danced. The air-conditioner seemed not to work at all because the place was always so crowded.

>> We were happy.

>> This place was the art that gave form to the feelings of a heartbeat.

>> Here the consciousness of knowing you belonged nestled into that warm feeling of finally being home.

>> And home and genders loved and loyalty quite naturally, so we loved the Stonewall.

>> The cops --

>> Singular and plural.

>> -- were generically known as --

>> Lilly Law --

>> -- Betty Badge --

>> -- Patty Pig or --

>> -- the Devil with the Blue Dress On. That night Betty Badge got carried away. It was not only a raid, but a bust. Mother Stonewall was being violated. They forcibly entered her with nightsticks. The lights went on and it wasn't a pretty sight.

>> How would children feel seeing their mother raped right before their eyes, their home broken into and looted?

>> And the music box broken? The dancing stopped.

>> The replicated wishing well smashed.

>> No, this wasn't a 1960s student riot, out there were the streets, there were no nice dorms for sleeping, no school cafeteria for certain food, no affluent parents to send us checks.

>> There was a ghetto riot on home turn, and we already had our war wounds, so this was just another battle.

>> Nobody thought of it as history.

>> Her story.

>> My story.

>> Your story.

>> Or our story. We were being denied a place to dance together and that's all. The total charisma of a revolution in our consciousness, rising from the gutter to the gut to the heart, and the mind was here, non-existent.

>> Or pot existed.

>> Was coming into being and being and to becoming. Our Mother Stonewall was giving birth to a new era and we were the midwives.

>> That night the gutter street rats shown like the brightest gold, and like that baby born in a feed trough --

>> A manger --

>> -- or found by pharaoh's daughter in a basket floating down the River Nile, the mystery of history happened again in the least likely of places.

>> Huh? Uh-hum.

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>> That was Mother Stonewall and the Golden Rats written by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and read by the Actors Delissa Reynolds and Leland Gantt, and that takes us up to the late '60s in Greenwich Village. And, Jason, could you tell me what the neighborhood was like at the time, what the scene was?

>> So, as I think Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt talks about, you had many, many disenfranchised queer youth who were living in the Village, some, many of them gender nonconforming, some of them transgender, and these are people really who are abandoned by their families, rejected by their families, and living on the streets of the Village. There's another activist, Martin Boyce, who was there, who is also included in the Stonewall Reader and have many interviews with, and one of the things he talks about is people doing scare drag, which was really being sort of confrontationally gender nonconforming, mixing male and female attire, which he talks about people trying to pluck people's nerves, right? And so really these disenfranchised youth who were ready to fight and ready to have this conflict because they had nothing left to lose, right? And I think that's really part of what led to Stonewall. I think also you had an older generation though, too, of gay men, of lesbians, of transgender people who were also in the Village, so this history of gay bars and lesbian bars and also of drag and drag performance in the Village, as well.

>> Yes, and one of those people was Storme DeLarverie, yes?

>> Yes, who was also included in the exhibition with this really iconic photograph by Robert Giard that we have. In the Giard picture she, I think it was later when she was living at Chelsea Hotel and she has these amazing combat boots on and is sort of lounging back with her legs crossed and looking straight at the camera in this very unblinking, unflinching confrontational kind of stare that she had. So I think with Storme many people think that she was one of the key people in the Stonewall riots. In many of the accounts they talk about a lesbian who is in this conflict with the police, resisting arrest, and really that that moment of resistance really sparking the riot. And many people say that that was Storme and that interaction was this kind of primal moment that set-off the riots.

>> And so next we're actually going to hear from one of the librarians who processed Storme's collection at the Schomburg Center, Megan Renee Williams.

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>> So the Schomburg Center acquired the Storme DeLarverie collection a couple years ago and there were photographs and papers, documents, books and even some articles of clothing. They were brought here by two friends of hers and donated. I just recognized the name, it's not like I was a scholar by any means, I didn't know that much at all, but the name caught me. And I was like, oh, wait, I think that this is really a big deal.

[ Music ]

So Storme was born on Christmas Eve in 1920 in New Orleans. She was biracial, and at a pretty young age knew that she wanted to perform and be on the stage I think. Throughout the '50s and '60s was Master of Ceremonies of this traveling review variety show called the Joe Baxter Review and it was dubbed 25 Men and One Girl. So a drag performance and Storme was that one girl.

[ Music ]

They were one of the first kind of traveling performance troupes of its kind that were integrated, it was an interracial group, and they performed a lot on the Chitlin Circuit. So that was black clubs around America, several in Harlem, they were regulars at the Apollo.

[ Music ]

Here's a beautiful portrait of Storme with one of her fellow performers and she is just very handsome, a very beautiful butch with a tuxedo on and a black bowtie, strong eyebrows and she's got bleached hair in this picture, which I really love, this kind of blonde men's haircut, 1950s almost flattop.

[ Music ]

Well, Storme lands in New York, she was known in the queer scene downtown. After her time as a performer she serves as a bouncer at different lesbian bars. She was a New Yorker, at Henrietta, she's at the Cubbyhole, everyone knows her. You can tell from the pictures, but she's just so charming and truly loved. There's so many party pictures and birthday pictures and all through her 50s and 60s and even later looking for, Storme looks so poised yet relaxed and cool. She just looks cool, she just looks so cool.

[ Music ]

It's wonderful to have in this photograph collection these more formal eight by ten glossy black-and-white photographs, and next to just snapshots from your point-and-shoot camera, color pictures that you would get developed at Bosco and take home and get double prints to give to friends. You know, we don't do things that way anymore. So 1969 the uprising and Stonewall happened, as we all know. It's believed by some that Storme was one of the protesters there that night and that she threw the first punch or that first brick, others say she wasn't there at all, however, her story plays the role of showing that there were black women and POC queers at this uprising. And often the story we're presented with is one that's rather whitewashed, so whether or not Storme or someone else did the first thing and started it all it's just important to consider all those stories and whose makes it into the history books and whose don't. Archivists and archives have a lot of power and I'm very aware of that and I think all my colleagues are, that what we're even able to provide are going to shape these histories and shape what we know in the future. We're trying not to interpret so much as just make documents available for others to research and interpret as they will for the history books. I was really enamored, you know, in these images I saw a confident, handsome woman who was really living the way she wanted to live. It seemed to me joining a drag performance troop would be a radical thing to do in the 1950s. I like that this collection shows us in a lot of ways what just another life of a fabulous queer person looked like.

>> That was Megan Williams at the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture talking about Storme DeLarverie. In the late '60s and '70s it's likely that Storme knew two other leaders in the movement, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, whose voices we're going to hear next. Jason, who were Sylvia and Marsha?

>> So Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were really iconic and I think central activists in New York City in the late 1960s and early '70s. They participate in gay liberation front, they both participated in the Stonewall riots, but I think more importantly start an organization, STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, which is in the 1970s, it becomes a commune, it's sort of a self-help program for transgender women in New York at the time, and they're on the front lines of pretty much every demonstration that happens in the early 1970s. Sylvia is in many ways I think ostracized and really rejected by the community, particularly with the rise of lesbian separatism in a way, and there was a lot of anti-transgender sentiment in the activism in the mid-1970s. When I first started with all of this at the Library one of the things I went through, GAA, Gay Activist Alliances' records and their minutes of the meetings, and every single meeting there's Sylvia Rivera, either Sylvia was arrested at a protest and needs bail money or Sylvia is trying to push them to do some sort of demonstration. So I think in one way very rejected by that community, but also sort of a gadfly and was at the center of that community, whether they liked it or not. And so I think they've really pushed the envelope and really pushed activism forward for transgender issues and I think are really iconic for people today and I think more appreciated today than they were at the time.

>> So these recordings that we're going to hear were collected by a Writer and Historian named Eric Marcus. Back in the '90s Eric was commissioned to write a book about the LGBTQ movement, and years later after the book was published Eric donated his collection of recordings to the Library and we digitized them. Eric hosted a show called Making Gay History, which features those archival recordings. And, Jason, can you tell us more about that archive and some of the people in it?

>> Yes, Eric's archive is amazing and really one of the treasures of our LGBTQ collections. He was really tracking down pioneering figures from the 1950s, from the 1960s, pioneering gay rights figures, some who are remembered today and some who aren't. So both the archive at the Library and the podcasts I think are really essential listening.

>> And here's Eric talking about his experience archiving this history and repurposing it for the podcasts, and then we'll hear recordings of, first, Marsha P. Johnson, followed by Sylvia Rivera.

>> Virtually everyone wanted to talk, they wanted to share their stories. Most of them had never been interviewed before. I was really interested in talking to people who had not been interviewed a lot. Their stories were fresher, they were more eager to talk, and I felt that other people wouldn't necessarily record their stories.

>> The way I wound-up being at Stonewall that night, I was having a party uptown and we were all there. And Ms. Sylvia Rivera and they were over in the park having a cocktail.

>> Actually, it was the first time that I had even been to fricking Stonewall.

>> I was in full drag, I was dressed, you know, very pleasantly. I was wearing a woman's suit, full bottoms, that I had made this fabulous suit at home, and I was wearing that and I had the hair out, lots of makeup, lots of hair.

>> They originally wanted Stonewall to close because they had several raids, and the night before the Stonewall riots started, before they closed the bar, we were all there and we all had to line-up against the walls and they was all searching us.

>> The police were?

>> Yes, they searched every single body that came here because the place was supposed to be closed and they opened anyway.

>> The police came in, they came in to get their payoff as usual.

>> They would come in, padlock the fricking door.

>> Because every time the police came what they would do, they would take the money from the coat check room and take the money from the bar, so if they heard the police were coming they would take all the money and hide it up under the bar in these vases.

>> When they ushered us out it was nice, you know, when they just very nicely put you out the door and then you stand across the street and show them the square, park, but why, but why? You just feel this, everybody is just looking at each other, but why do we have to keep on constantly putting up with this?

>> Stonewall has come to be this symbol now, I think if anyone, if people even know what it is, and most people don't, it's the idea that gay people fought back, that these street kids, mostly homeless kids, led the way in fighting back against police oppression, which ran completely counter to how people thought of gay people in those days, especially the gender nonconforming kids. So you had these fem kids, so we call them gender nonconforming now, they would have called themselves fems, flames, queens and other things. There they were, chasing the police, humiliating the police, and no one would have guessed that such a thing was possible.

>> I don't know if it was the customers or if it was the police, it's just everything clicked.

>> Everybody just like why the fuck are we doing all this for? And the nickels, the dimes, the pennies and the quarters started flying.

>> Why? Why that? Why did people do that?

>> The payoff, that was the payoff.

>> Oh, oh, oh.

>> That was the payoff.

>> It was to symbolize the payoff?

>> Yes, you already got --

>> Here's some more.

>> -- and here's some more.

>> I was uptown and I didn't get downtown till about two o'clock, because when I got downtown the place was already on fire and it was a raid already. The riots had already started, and they said the police went in there and set the place on fire.

>> There's so much of a fixation on what people, on who did what, and I try not to focus on that, and through the podcasts I like to think that we provide enough different perspectives that you get a sense of what happened there. And what's more interesting to me is how people were affected by Stonewall and what it did, what it inspired afterwards.

>> But, oh, it's so beautiful, I just like, you know, it's like --

>> Exciting?

>> Oh, it was so exciting, it was like we're doing it, we're doing it, we're fucking manners.

>> Were there lots of people hurt in Stonewall that night during the riots?

>> They weren't hurt at the Stonewall, they were hurt on the streets outside of the Stonewall because people were throwing bottles and the police were out there with those clubs and things and the helmets on, the riot helmets.

>> Were you afraid of being arrested?

>> Oh, no, because I'd been going to jail for like 10 years before Stonewall I was going to jail. I was originally up on 42nd Street and every time we'd go, you know, like going out all the time they would just get us and tell us we were under arrest. Yeah, they'd say all you drag queens are under arrest, so, you know, it was just for wearing a little bit of makeup down on 42nd Street.

>> There were so many examples of LGBTQ fighting back prior to 1969 and after and we also, as a provincial New Yorker, I like to think everything begins here. It was a slogan that used to be hung from the façade of the Stonewall, where Pride began. Well, Pride was an organization founded in LA in 1966, it was a militant gay rights group, Pride started in LA. We like to say that the Pride march started here in New York. Well, it turns out not, I think Chicago did it a day before New York. We like to say that the movement began at Stonewall, well, it didn't, it began in 1950 or 1897 if you go back to Magen Searchfeld [assumed spelling] in Germany, in Berlin. What Stonewall offers us the opportunity to do is to go into the history, it's an entry point, we can look at what came before and what came after, and we really can't understand what happened at Stonewall unless we understand the 19 years of the US movement that happened prior and how that infrastructure that was developed in those years was leveraged by the people who essentially ran the movement in the years after, who had experience, they had experience from the early '60s or even earlier. So if they hadn't been around to channel the energy that was released at Stonewall, Stonewall wouldn't have become what it was.

>> Now you're the organization that marches and what was the name?

>> Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. It was after Stonewall they started, they started at GAA. Mama Jean Devente, who used to be the Marshal for all the parades, she was the one that talked Sylvia Rivera into leaving GAA because Sylvia Rivera, who is President, STAR was a member of GAA, and started a group of her own. And so she started Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and she asked me would I come be the Vice President of that organization?

>> The reason I think it's important to remember an event like Stonewall and to know our history is to my mind simple, we can't know where we're going if we don't know where we've been, but there's more to it than that. I hear from listeners who are young, who don't know that they have ancestors, who don't know that they have a history. I grew-up in a Jewish community where I learned my history in Hebrew school, I learned from my family, from my neighbors. As a gay person growing up I felt entirely alone, I thought I was the only one in the world. Now while that's not the case any longer, because most kids who are gay, who are LGBTQ grow-up knowing that there are others in the world, they don't know that the world was a very different place a long time ago and that we have ancestors who did things that were really brave and inspiring. So I hear from young people around the world who say I feel like I have grandparents now, I feel like I can do things that I couldn't have imagined before because I could take inspiration from what those people did for me to get me to where I am now.

>> So far this was in part because people were so angry for so long.

>> People were very angry for so long. I mean how long can you live in the closet? I was already out of my closet. When you're obvious, back then there was nothing to hold you back. We, all the ones that went out there and we didn't take no shit from them, we had nothing to lose.

>> Most of the people I interviewed are dead, and I feel this enormous responsibility as the keeper of these stories to share these stories so that these people's stories live on. They sound very alive on tape and I love hearing their voices and they live in my head and they inspire me every day, and I hope that the people who listen to their stories through the Making of Gay History podcast experience these stories as I do and are energized by them and inspired by them and are moved to share the stories they hear with others.

>> That was Eric Marcus, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Another person who documented the movement actually at the time was Kay Tobin Lahusen, she actually documented the gay rights movement before Stonewall, during and after. Jason, how did you come to meet her?

>> So Kay Tobin Lahusen was probably the first professional LGBTQ Photojournalist in the United States, and the Library has an archive of about 1,000 of her photographs from the 1960s to around 1980s. Kay did this amazing book, The Gay Crusaders, in 1971 where she traveled the country interviewing really all the major activists in their early 70s, as well as taking the photographs.

>> So kind of like Eric's project, but like 20 years earlier?

>> Yes, it really is one of the great predecessors to Eric's project, yes, another kind of lens. And then she also did this magazine, The Ladder, with her partner, Barbara Gittings, who was also a very important activist from the 1960s on. So they were both part of The Daughters of Elitists, which is a main organization for lesbians in the United States from the 1950s onward, and for The Ladder in the early 1960s they take over the editing of it, Barbara doing the sort of literary text and Kay doing the photos and that's really how she starts as a photographer. And with The Ladder it's interesting, before they took over the covers would always be sort of nondescript, maybe a picture of a person in silhouette or a cartoon, and it's a very anonymous almost the covers of the magazine. And then when she takes over in the 1960s they suddenly put out lesbians on the cover of the magazine and make it The Ladder, A Lesbian Review. But really I think Kay changed the whole perception of lesbians in the United States, I think they're really the first positive images of lesbians that we have in the US and really changed publishing images of LGBTQ people and documentation of these issues in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

>> So, Jason, you went to visit Kay in Pennsylvania and got to interview her, why was that important for you to do?

>> Partially I wanted her to see all the work that we've done. She's 89 years old and living in assisted living, it's very hard for her to get around so she can't come to the show herself. But I also, since she's still with us and there's so many things that I didn't know about the photographs, everything I'd go through them with her there's new things I learn about them, about the people and the taking of the photographs, as well.

>> Okay, so here's Jason's interview with Kay Tobin Lahusen.

[ Music ]

>> In the show that's up at the Library right now and it's really devoted to your work and also Diana Davies' work and so it shows some of your, her latest photography for The Ladder, right, and so how did you start taking photos to begin with?

>> Well, it was just happenstance, I didn't think of myself as a photographer, though I had liked photography since I was a kid. But I really just went to friends and said would you be willing? Well, initially nobody was willing, so you can understand why originally The Ladder had all these little line drawings. But I just turned to people I knew and tried to interest them. Well, nobody would agree. I finally got a letter from a reader of all places Indonesia and her name was Gara von Brom [assumed spelling], and she happened to enclose a cute little picture of herself. And I thought, hey, this would make a very good Ladder cover, and she agreed because she had nothing to lose, I mean she was in Indonesia, we had no circulation there. So it was very nice to be able to start-off with her picture. But after that I couldn't find anybody and then that was when finally we decided we should picket, and this is long before Stonewall. Anyway we kicked it around in our very earliest embryonic little gay groups and finally we decided, well, we'd try to have a picket, but we wouldn't advertise it at all. And I think 10 of us or so, I wasn't involved, but 10 people at the time went out and did a picket of the White House I think it was, and nothing happened, there was no problem, nobody threw rocks at them. And then I thought, well, you know, maybe we don't have to worry, so let's try this again and have publicity and try to get others. And we did pick-up maybe three or four or five others, so picketing started just very slowly that way. And those, and finally I turned to the picketers, one a very attractive woman friend of ours, and I said, you know, you've been in this picket line, why don't you agree to go on the cover of The Ladder? So she said, okay, and that was Lilli Vincenz, yes, so I think she was the first to be full-face and in the United States and so she broke the ice.

>> For those listening who don't know The Ladder, so this was this pioneering magazine from The Daughters of Elitists that was one of the few national magazines for lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s.

>> Well, it was really the first, I mean there was a tiny one out of Los Angeles, but The Ladder was really the first of any consequence.

>> And was everybody, because so The Ladder had been around for awhile before you and Barbara were editing it in the mid-1960s --

>> Yes.

>> -- and so did -- how did people react to Lilli Vincenz and the cover?

>> Oh, oh, they loved it, of course, I mean, you know, it was just a matter of somebody having the courage to do it and then others were willing, but often they had reservations. Well, I'll do it only in profile or only in silhouette or only back to camera.

>> You saw in the show we have this whole section of pictures of people in love that you took and also from The Ladder that you edited and there are all these pictures of lesbian couples, but from behind so you can't see their faces.

>> I know, isn't it awful.

>> They're the saddest pictures I've ever seen, there's joy because they're together, but then that you can see how oppressed people were that they couldn't show their faces.

>> Well, I liked some of those pictures, I liked the two women holding hands on a beach.

>> Yes.

>> Looking out at the ocean and above them is a wonderful big what do you call it, you know what I mean?

>> Just like they're near a pier and they're at the beach, yes, and it's a beautiful photograph, yes.

>> And then you used that in the booklet that goes with the exhibit.

>> Yes, and we have all the negatives as well for it.

>> You'd better.

>> Yes, yes, we've taken very good care of it.

>> Why do you think I brought it to you?

>> That is our job is to take care of it. But it seemed like it -- and I made a whole theme in the show about this because it seemed like you -- that was a theme for you because there are many, many pictures of couples when I went through your archive, and so was it to change people's perceptions or was it just, yes --

>> Sure, the whole point of showing us was to change their ideas about what we look like because in those days people would say, well, I wonder what they look like? I mean they had the weirdest ideas sometimes. It was a time when there were so few of us in the movement in our tiny little organizations, so few had some talent that might be needed. So honestly it was slim pickings. I had to not only do photography, I did a lot of writing, and people don't realize that now but I did do a lot of writing and interviewing and, well, I marched and didn't even think of myself as a photographer. It's just one of many things I did in passing that were needed at that point in time, so that's how I evolved, I sort of evolved and didn't even know it. I think it was Tieg Corine [assumed spelling] who said to me, you should realize you were the first photojournalist. It never occurred to me.

>> And many other people have said that to me and also people seeing the show have, like they ask about what kind of camera did you use and what kind of lights did you use?

>> They think I had some fancy training and lights and all this fancy equipment that you all have now, I didn't because, well, first of all if you're in a picket line and you're jumping out of the line and grabbing a camera and taking a picture of the picketers, everybody is moving, you're there, you don't have time to fiddle around with a light meter and all this fancy stuff. So I just had a simple little camera, but it did the deal for me, didn't it?

>> Yes, beautifully. I think many people are coming to you to talk about Stonewall and with this 50th Anniversary, and so what did it mean to you then, Stonewall? Because you were part of this movement beforehand and then all of a sudden Stonewall happens, and a lot of people like today think that Stonewall was the beginning of this movement, right? So at the time what did Stonewall mean to you?

>> Well, it did shake us all up and it was hard to know what would be the impact of this riot. I wasn't there, I was out on Fire Island vacationing, and we heard about the riots going on. And people were thrilled I think to hear that some mostly kids, young people in the bar had fought back against the police and achieved some measure of success. Anyway I think we were all thrilled that somebody had fought back, and I think we hoped that publicity would come from this. But it was hard to know, I mean if you riot it gets a lot of negative publicity too, so we weren't quite sure what would be the upshot of this. But, of course, there's something to be said for standing up for yourself and fighting back if you're being unfairly dealt with, and it touched people, it touched their hearts I think. Barbara called it a flashpoint, it certainly was a big flashpoint in the movement and it wasn't anything that we could duplicate and count on to have an ongoing affect, but it certainly did change things for the better. It inspired people I think to get in the organization, such as they were then, and to think about fighting for our rights. But, of course, the old picket lines were intended to do the same thing, and we did but in a lower key.

[ Music ]

>> That was Jason speaking with Kay Tobin Lahusen. Jason, you sounded like you were having fun.

>> Oh, it's wonderful to talk to Kay Tobin Lahusen. Partially I'm just in awe of her, of the activism that she did, when I look back at these people from the 1960s just the courage that they had and vision that they had to do everything that they did. Also Kay has an amazing memory and she remembers everything that happened in the 1960s and 1970s, she'll even remember parts of conversations that I've had with her 10 years ago that I don't remember, she remembers things about me that I don't remember, so it's always really a joy to talk to her.

>> Okay, so from one legend to another, we're going to hear now from activist, Miss Major, she's a transgender elder and activist who was present at the Stonewall riots whose story is a part of the New York City Transoral History project. Jason, can you tell us a little bit about what that is?

>> The New York City Transoral History project is a collective that has been documenting these stories, doing oral history of the people in the community, some of them who participated in Stonewall, and just major activists and regular people actually in the New York City transgender community and the Library then is this archive preserving this for posterity.

>> So let's hear from Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. This recording was made on December 16th, 2017 and she was interviewed in Manhattan by A.J. Lewis.

>> And so I was hanging out in the Village because that's where the young hippie kids hung out, so I went down there, and that's when I met Sylvia and Marsha. And the interesting thing with them was they were more aware of the politics of our existence than I was at the time, you know? And they were trying to help the community and help the younger girls, younger than even us, who were coming there to hang-out and keep them safe, get them food, you know, to let them know where to go to have shelter, to be safe, you know, not in harm's way. And they, you know, had started an organization to help us that was really wonderful called STAR. And people being all hopped up and happy over Stonewall, okay, that's really nice, but having been there and getting my ass knocked out why wasn't it better for my community afterwards? You know what, it was scary, it was something that happened all the time, the police coming in and shutting down bars all across the United States, not just in New York, everywhere. They come with that knife stick, hit the door jam, the lights come on and you streamed out. That's what you did, everybody knew it. They checked for ID to see if minors were in the bar and stuff like that and the routine started, but nobody budged, everybody just looked at one another. And when we got our nerves together and everybody decided, okay, we're going to go out. A fight ensued and all of this crap that I've been hearing over the years, oh, someone threw a shoe, someone threw a Molotov cocktail, someone did something else, someone slugged a cop -- I don't know what happened, all I know is a fight ensued and we were kicking their ass, so much so they backed into the bar for protection. And then the next thing you knew the riot squad was there, then it was on, you know? It was a mess and the interesting thing was it went on for days, it wasn't just one night. Stonewall that went on for I think three or four days, I think it went on. And the funny thing was I remember hearing in my head people yelling from their apartments and stuff, the girls are kicking the cops' ass over at Stonewall. What, you all weren't down there fighting, you was yelling from the safety of your window while we was getting brutalized, you know, down there. But, oh, when a parade came couldn't find us anywhere. And I forget the name of the child that had that blue Cadillac, some rich white boy that had a blue Cadillac was always by the Stonewall, but in his car in the parade was a couple of the drag queens that he used to like to perform. None of my girls, you know, Sylvia was -- I didn't see Sylvia there in the front where she should have been, you know? And, you know, and it's not about me, I don't give a shit whether they acknowledge or know about me, it has to do with Sylvia and Marsha were trying to take care of the community before we really knew that we needed to be taken care of, you know? They had a vision, they saw what was coming, and they did their best to protect us and make us aware of it. They were the two that really fought to stabilize us, you know? And so behind that it became a matter of, well, what do we do to keep this going, you know, to maintain it? I didn't know a thing about that fucking parade until I saw it on TV, like someone should have told us or made us aware of what was going on, you know? And it was just, it was a hard pill to swallow, you know? And one of the things as a black person I've learned to realize that history is one big lie, it has to do with the person that's writing it, not about the facts that went on, you know? And perception plays 90% part in what that asshole puts down on paper. So why believe it, you know what I mean, or get involved, you know? One of the things I think about it if you were to take a history book and pull out of it the bullshit and the lies, get the truth, find out what it is and snatch out all the bullshit that's in there you're going to wind-up with two or three pages. All that 475,376 pages is crap, it's smoke that they're blowing up people's ass. And the sad thing is people buy it, you know? If they don't buy it then that shit doesn't get a chance to go over, you know? So it's a thing of making sure that, you know, I'm not going to lie to my girls or people about it, you know? And if you ask me something I'm going to tell you the truth, you know? And it has to do with my perception of things, not theirs or what somebody else has said, you know? They aren't me, they weren't in my skin at that time to perceive anything that I perceived, you know? And, yeah, I'm older and, yeah, memory has suffered, takes away stuff, well, that's just what it fucking does, you know? I'm still here, fuck you.

[ Music ]

>> That was legendary activist, Miss Major. Jason, you did this amazing exhibit and the book that went with it, Love and Resistance, and you edited the Stonewall Reader all in one year, it was a lot of work.

>> It's been quite a year.

>> Why did you do it all?

>> My key goal with the show and the books and particularly with the Stonewall Reader was really so people can have their own experience of these archives. I think that's something that Miss Major really gets at, right, that each person had their own experience and their own perspective on what happened. There isn't really one story of what happened at Stonewall, there's a story for each participant who had their own experience and saw different things, right? And I want people to be able to interact with this archive in their own original way, read what happened from the people who participated themselves, who often disagree, right? And then but that the person can come away with their own understanding of what happened and why it's important today.

>> Jason, thanks for being on the show today, for making the show, the books and for walking us through everything that we heard today.

>> Thank you.

>> This special episode of Library Talks was produced by Gabriel Galenic [assumed spelling], Schuyler Swenson and Richert Schnorr, and the theme music was composed by Allison Leighton Brown. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions. Special thanks to Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Delissa Reynolds and Leland Gantt, Megan Renee Williams at the Schomburg Center, Eric Marcus and the Making Gay History podcast, Kay Tobin-Lahusen, and the New York City Transoral History project, and Miss Major. For links to everything that was discussed on the show today you can look in the show notes or go to the episode page on our website.