American Experience Series
April 25, 2011
“In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Such raids were not unusual in the late 1960s, an era when homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. That night, however, the street erupted into violent protests and demonstrations that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.”The Civil Rights Movement is something that I am sure most children are taught about in history classes, but the Gay Rights Movement is a struggle for equality that is glossed over if covered at all. In their newest episode in the American Experience series, Stonewall Uprising, they take on one of the pivotal events in this movement – something I had never heard of prior to this show. In the episode, this major event is described as “the Rosa Parks moment for the gay”.
The first thing that you will notice about this episode is the disclaimer at the beginning of the episode stating that very few images exist of this event and that what you will see is mostly recreated. I appreciated this statement and wish that they included it more often – it would help people keep the historic from the fictional. In order to get into the mindset of the time, this episode began by explaining the way society at the time viewed the gay community. Here they emphasized their point by showing various segments and commercials from the 1950’s and 60’s that were anti-homosexual. One of the segments that was featured was called Boys Beware and was a type of public service announcement. I included the segment below to help you get an idea of what they were showing. While watching I kept being shocked that people would actually believe what was being said in these segments – it just seemed so surreal to me.
They also had people talking about what it was like to be gay during that time and the opposition that they constantly came up against. They also went into some detail as to why the Stonewall Inn was such an important/iconic place for that community.
The riot itself was described by several people who were involved in some way – you had a former cop who had been inside the Stonewall Inn during the riot, as well as several people from the gay community who were inside the inn as well as those in the mass group outside. This allowed the viewer to get a well rounded idea of what was happening within and around the Stonewall.
This episode was handled with dignity for those who were featured in the episode. I thought that they did a very good job of highlighting an important event in another rights movement that is less frequently discussed. I learned quite a bit and would encourage you to watch this episode as well.
Here is a trailer of this show below and if you want to watch the entire episode online you can go to this link [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/player/]
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