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STONEWALL by David Carter

STONEWALL

Six Days that Transformed a Political Movement

By David Carter

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-20025-0
Publisher: St. Martin's

A history of the week that forged a revolution and brought aboveground a thriving subculture.

Freelancer Carter’s debut focuses primarily on detailing the events of those six stormy days in 1969, but Carter first delineates homosexual life in New York during that period to explain exactly why Stonewall exploded. He discusses the evolution of Greenwich Village as a bohemian enclave and Christopher Street as a milieu for gay culture. Perhaps because New York had particularly harsh anti-homosexual laws, he surmises, the city spawned some of the first gay and lesbian activist societies. Carter considers Stonewall itself a fusion event. Certainly the riot was a product of the charged political and social scene of the late ’60s, but it’s also significant that the raid took place on a summer Friday, late enough at night so that lots of the many customers had downed a good few drinks by the time the cops arrived. The slowness of the raid and the inspired, furious resistance of a few patrons who would not go quietly into the paddy wagons meant that the customers’ friends had plenty of time to assemble at Stonewall, the city’s largest gay bar, located in what was for all purposes a gay ghetto, at the center of a nexus of transportation that made getting there easy. The gathering crowd was in a militant mood. For Morty Manfred, a gay Columbia student who was at Stonewall that night, as for many others, one question had to be answered: “Why do we have to put up with this shit?” They didn't, and six days later gays and lesbians had proven that point. Considering all that went before, the ongoing repression and corruption, and the scent of social and political liberation in the air, Carter’s eloquent account makes it clear that something was bound to catch fire. Stonewall's unique place in the gay community made it an obvious tinderbox.

A complete, full-bodied portrait, with lots of flesh on the bones of a strong narrative structure. (8 b&w photos, not seen)