Remembering the First New York City Pride March Through Diana Davies' Photographs

By Tal Nadan, Manuscripts and Archives Division
June 18, 2020
Christopher Street Liberation march

Marching past the Jefferson Market Courthouse and Women’s House of Detention. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58050658 

Inspired by the enthusiastic response to her photojournalism during NYPL’s Love & Resistance exhibition, the Library is pleased to announce that thousands of additional images by Diana Davies are now available in our Digital Collections. These new images are the result of several months of effort by the staff of the Digital Imaging Unit and the Metadata Services Unit to transfer previously unpublished images from the original negatives in the Library’s care. These add underseen and alternate views of 1960s and 1970s New York LGBTQ activism to the few hundred Davies prints available online since 2008.

This expanded digital collection includes over three hundred photographs taken during the Christopher Street Liberation Day March on June 28, 1970, which was the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Activists gathered at Sheridan Square and walked up Sixth Avenue to Central Park’s Sheep Meadow for a Gay-In celebration. Through her photographs, viewers can follow Davies along on New York’s first Pride march.

images 58050529 and 58050771

Handing out signs on Christopher Street. NYPL Digital Collections Image ID: 58050529 (left) and and 

Christopher Street Liberation Day march

Passing a crowd of onlookers at West 50th Street. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58050613

marchers entering Central Park

Entering Central Park. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58050611

gathering in Central Park

Gathering in Central Park. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58050601

These recently-available images include many new portraits of her subjects, which means that extant prints can now be interpreted in additional ways. For example, while one print of Donna Gottschalk has been widely circulated, the negatives show that this particular image was selected from five different shots—more frames than Davies usually dedicated to her subjects. The presence of so many shots helps a viewer think about the photographer’s intention, and by looking at the set together a student can see why one portrait is more successful than the others. These negatives also include lesser-seen images of Craig Rodwell and Fred Sargeant, Barbara Gittings, Marsha P. Johnson, and an attempt to break the world record for kissing.

detail of contact sheet 6

Detail of contact sheet 6 (I

The collection also provides insight into the working process of a photojournalist using film. Diana Davies created contact sheets (positive images of an entire reel of negatives) to organize her work and make editorial decisions. The contact sheets preserved in the collection are marked up with cropping suggestions in grease pencil.

Page 18, September-October issue of Come Out!

Page 18, September-October 1970 issue of Come Out!

Davies was active in the Gay Liberation Front, and her work appears in every issue of Come Out! published in 1970. These issues are available from home in page-turnable format through the Archives of Sexuality and Gender. Come Out! published a cropped version of this particular shot in the September-October issue, across the fold from a poetic personal account of the march “by two Lesbians”. This article appears alongside coverage of police harassment and the Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention organized by the Black Panthers, and commentary on gender, racial, ethnic, and political representation.

The Diana Davies photographs are significant in their own right as a pictorial history of LGBTQ political activism. However they also provide an entry point to a media history of the fight for social justice.

Further Reading

In addition to NYPL, Davies photographs are held by the Sophia Smith Collections of Women’s History at Smith College and the Smithsonian’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. Her work was published in many LGBTQ and feminist magazines, in addition to The New York Times, Life, Time, and The Village Voice.

The Diana Davies photographs are one of many resources at NYPL for gay liberation movement research. Additional visual images are available through the Library’s Digital Collections, including the work of Kay Tobin and Robert Giard. Many online subject databases can be accessed from home with a library card. Persons interested in researching NYPL’s archival collections are encouraged to contact a Librarian.