The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall
rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the
gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning
hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village
neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.
They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the
gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
Gay Americans in the 1950s and 1960s faced an anti-gay legal system. Early homophile groups
in the U.S. sought to prove that gay people could be assimilated into society, and they favored
non-confrontational education for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. The last years of the
1960s, however, were very contentious, as many social/political movements were active,
including the Civil Rights Movement, the counterculture of the 1960s, and the anti-Vietnam War
movement. These influences, along with the liberal environment of Greenwich Village, served
as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.
Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did
were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. At the time, the Stonewall
Inn was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be
popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens,
transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless
youth. Police raids
on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the
Stonewall Inn. They attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City
police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and
again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups
to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their
sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.
After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, race, class, and
generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist
organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three
newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay
rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first gay
pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago
commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities.
Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark
the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall National Monument was established at the site in 2016.
(December 24, 1920 – May 24, 2014) was a butch lesbian whose scuffle with police, according to
Storme herself and many eyewitnesses, was the defining moment that incited the Stonewall riots,
spurring the crowd to action. "It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience--it
wasn't no damn riot." She was born in New Orleans, to an African American mother and a white
father. She is remembered as a gay civil rights icon and entertainer, who graced the stages of the
Apollo Theater and Radio City Music Hall. She worked for much of her life as an MC, singer,
bouncer, bodyguard and volunteer street patrol worker, the "guardian of lesbians in the Village."
She is known as "the Rosa Parks of the gay community."
DeLarverie's father was white. Her mother was a servant working for his family. According to
DeLarverie, she was not certain of her actual date of birth. She celebrated her birthday on December
As a child, DeLarverie faced bullying and harassment. She rode jumping horses with the Ringling
Brothers Circus when she was a teenager. She stopped riding horses after being injured in a fall. She
realized she was gay near the age of eighteen.
Her partner, a dancer named Diana, lived with her for about 25 years until Diana died in the 1970s.
According to friend Lisa Cannistraci, DeLarverie carried a photograph of Diana with her at all times.
Almost 50 years later, the events of June 28, 1969 have been called "the Stonewall riots." However,
DeLarverie was very clear that "riot" is a misleading description:
It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights
disobedience — it wasn’t no damn riot. ~ Stormé DeLarverie
At the Stonewall rebellion, a scuffle broke out when a woman in handcuffs, who may have been
Stormé, was roughly escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon. She was brought
through the crowd by police several times, as she escaped repeatedly. She fought with at least four of
the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. Described by a witness as "a typical New
York butch" and "a dyke-stone butch," she had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for, as
one witness stated, announcing that her handcuffs were too tight. She was bleeding from a head
wound as she fought back. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains uncertain
(Stormé has been identified by some, including herself, as the woman, but accounts vary), sparked
the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, "Why don't you guys do something?"
After an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the wagon, the crowd became a mob
and went "berserk": "It was at that moment that the scene became explosive." Some have referred to
that woman as "the gay community’s Rosa Parks".
“'Nobody knows who threw the first punch, but it’s rumored that she did, and she said she did,' said
Lisa Cannistraci, a friend of DeLarverie and owner of the Village lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson. 'She
told me she did.'”
Whether or not DeLarverie was the woman who fought her way out of the police wagon, all accounts
agree that she was one of several butch lesbians who fought back against the police during the
The Jewel Box Revue
From 1955 to 1969 DeLarverie toured the black theater circuit as the MC (and only drag king) of the
Jewel Box Revue, North America's first racially integrated drag revue.The revue regularly played the
Apollo Theater in Harlem, as well as to mixed-race audiences, something that was still rare during the
era of Racial segregation in the United States. DeLarverie, who cut a striking, handsome presence,
inspired other lesbians to adopt what had formerly been considered "men's" clothing as street wear.
 She performed as a baritone. She was photographed by renowned artist Diane Arbus.
In 1987 Michelle Parkerson released the first cut of the movie, Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box,
about DeLarverie and her time with the revue.
Life after Stonewall
DeLarverie's role in the Gay liberation movement lasted long after the uprisings of 1969.
In the 1980s and '90s she worked as a bouncer for several lesbian bars in New York City. She was a
member of the Stonewall Veterans' Association, holding the offices of Chief of Security, Ambassador
and, in 1998 to 2000, Vice President. She was a regular at the gay pride parade. For decades
Delarverie served the community as a volunteer street patrol worker, the "guardian of lesbians in the
Tall, androgynous and armed — she held a state gun permit — Ms. DeLarverie roamed lower Seventh
and Eighth Avenues and points between into her 80s, patrolling the sidewalks and checking in at
lesbian bars. She was on the lookout for what she called “ugliness”: any form of intolerance, bullying
or abuse of her “baby girls.” ... “She literally walked the streets of
downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero. ... She was
not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.”
~ DeLarverie's obituary in The New York Times
In addition to her work for the LGBT community, she also organized and performed at benefits for
battered women and children. When asked about why she chose to do this work, she replied,
“Somebody has to care. People say, ‘Why do you still do that?’ I said, ‘It’s very simple. If people didn’t
care about me when I was growing up, with my mother being black, raised in the south.’ I said, ‘I
wouldn’t be here.’”
DeLarverie suffered from dementia in her later years.From 2010 to 2014, she lived in a nursing home
in Brooklyn. Though she seemingly didn't recognize she was in a nursing home, her memories of her
childhood and the Stonewall Uprisings remained strong. She died in her sleep on May 24, 2014 in
Brooklyn. No immediate family members were alive at her time of death.
UNITY COALITION|COALICION UNIDA is the First & Only organization for the So. Fla. Latinx|Hispanic|LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Community - advancing
Equality and Fairness through Education, Leadership & Awareness since 2002.
UNITY COALITION|COALICION UNIDA es la Primera y Unica organización en el sur de la Florida para la comunidad latinx|hispanx LGBT (lesbianas, gay,bisexual, transgénero)-
avanzando Igualdad, Liderazgo y Conciencia desde el 2002.