This 1969 newspaper cover story about the Stonewall riots shows just how far we've come


This past Sunday, while Pride parades celebrated joy, love, and the Supreme Court’s recent favorable gay marriage decision, the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall raid and accompanying riot came and went. In 1969, the NYPD descended upon a gay club in New York’s Greenwich Village at three in the morning and arrested patrons under the pretense that the place did not have a liquor license; the action kickstarted the gay rights movement after a crowd assembled to protest the unjust arrests.

The incidents at the Stonewall became national news quickly, an ascension that was probably helped by salacious coverage in the New York tabloids. The Daily News ran a play-by-play of the riot that is so cartoonishly offensive and excessive that it’s almost impressive. It makes for a stunning contrast: In 1969, a major American newspaper published slurs in a headline; today, the mass media has been far more respectful than…this.

Seriously, take a gander:

The entire article is worth a read if you want to feel embarrassed by a major American media organization and a bygone era that existed the same year Ice Cube and Steffi Graf were born. Interview subjects “lisp” their quotes. If a foot is being put down concerning harassment by the police, that foot is noted as wearing a spiked heel. The Stonewall is described as a place to drink and dance “and do whatever little girls do when they get together.” No opportunity to call a man a woman is missed. The only saving grace is the presumed accuracy in the quotes.

That’s just the way things were. Progress does not often happen overnight. But there’s hope. The Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision may lead to further progress for the rights of other oppressed groups, even around the world.

And as for the Daily News? The paper will do a better job crafting headlines for the stories that really matter. Grading on a curve, they absolutely aced their cover this past weekend.

Truly, they deserve a “Gay” for effort.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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