In 2015, NPR host Ari Shapiro sat down with StoryCorps founder Dave Isay to talk about Dave’s very first radio documentary from 1989, “Remembering Stonewall.” This episode revisits their conversation and features that documentary.
In June 1969, police raided a popular gay bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn. The raiding of gay bars was common at the time, but what was uncommon this time was the reaction.
What began with a drag queen clobbering her arresting officer soon escalated into a full-fledged riot, and modern gay activism was born. Instead of running away, the patrons — many of them Puerto Rican drag queens — stood up for themselves. Protests continued for six days, and the event became known as the Stonewall Riots.
Today, the Stonewall Inn is a national historic landmark. But when Dave made his documentary, many of those involved in the uprising had never told their story.
Initially broadcast on the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, this documentary is the first — in any medium — to recount them. It weaves together the perspectives of the participants, from Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who marshaled the raid, to Sylvia Rivera, one of the drag queens who battled most fiercely that night. The revolutionary impact of the riot is better understood by looking at life for gay men and lesbians in the era before Stonewall, seen through the eyes of people like Bruce Merrow and Geanne Harwood, a gay couple who have been together for 60 years, and Jheri Faire, an 80-year-old lesbian.
“Remembering Stonewall” also examines how Stonewall affected gay politics through the voices of people like Randy Wicker, the first openly gay person to appear on television and radio; Joan Nestle, founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives; and yippie leader Jim Fouratt, who helped found the Gay Liberation Front on the third night of the Stonewall Riots.
Released June 27, 2017.