Stonewall National Monument: Rising for Equality

The arc to equality follows advancements in the rights of minority groups from the Civil War through the peak of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

The 1960s were a time of social and political transformation that brought greater freedom to many segments of society. Gains for minority groups varied, and freedoms guarenteed by some legislative changes did not extend to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Overhead view of Stonewall National Monument neighborhood
Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village, New York City.

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As one of the newest additions to the National Park System,Stonewall National Monument commemorates an important site and event in LGBT history. The national monument encompasses Christopher Park, located across the street from Stonewall Inn, an LGBT bar in the heart of Greenwich Village.
Neon Stonewall Inn sign in window
Neon sign in the window of the Stonewall Inn

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This historic streetscape was witness to the Stonewall Uprising.

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a New York City police raid on Stonewall Inn sparked riots and demonstrations in the surrounding streets that lasted several nights. These events catalyzed lesbian women, gay men, and bisexual and transgender people to unite in a nationwide movement to seek equal rights for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For over two centuries, Greenwich Village has attracted Americans of all kinds with an interest in political activism and the arts. In the early to mid-1800s, Greenwich Village was home to one of the largest former slave populations in the country. The nation’s first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, and first black theater, the African Grove, were both founded there.

In the early 1900s, gentrification pushed the black community from Greenwich Village. At the same time, Harlem was growing. That neighborhood’s cultural and artistic milieu gave rise to the Harlem Renaissance. By mid-century, Greenwich Village had a reputation as an urban bohemia as well, with its own art scene and progressive values.
Brick building with windows and fire escape at Stonewall
A New York City building near the Stonewall National Monument.

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Stonewall Inn opened in 1967. The bar was a place where people of color could be patrons without as much fear of racism that was pervasive. Stonewall Inn was popular with the African American and Latinx LGBT community.

The crowd outside Stonewall Inn in the early hours of June 28 included many people of color. Yet, contemporary portrayals of the Stonewall Uprising have whitewashed this watershed moment for the LGBT community.

Street activity in front of Stonewall Inn
Sidewalk activity in front of the Stone Wall Inn in 2016.

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While we celebrate galvanizing black visionaries like educator Booker T. Washington, abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama, it’s also important to remember black citizens whose actions and words have led to greater equality for their communities.

Stonewall National Monument is perhaps best known as an LGBT historic site. It’s also an African American and Latinx historic site, and reminder black history is American history.

Explore the Stonewall National Monument Landscape

Wrought-iron fencing surrounds brick sidewalks and plantings of Christopher Park
Christopher Park

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Christopher Park is surrounded by brick sidewalks and a nineteenth century wrought-iron fence. The western side of the park is open to the public on a daily basis and contains a small plaza lined with benches.

George Segal’s sculpture, “Gay Liberation,” stands as a focal point of the plaza. The sculpture was commissioned in 1979, on the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

The eastern half of the park features two monuments erected in 1936: a statue of Civil War General Philip Sheridan, and a memorial flagstaff and plaque honoring Colonel Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth, an officer with the New York Fire Zouaves during the Civil War.

"Gay Liberation" statue includes two standing figures, one with his hand on the other's shoulderr
George Segal's "Gay Liberation" sculpture at Christopher Park was commissioned in 1979.

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Last updated: May 17, 2019