2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a catalyst of the modern gay liberation movement and ongoing push for LGBTQ equality in the United States.
Christy Wallover of the Newseum
in Washington, D.C., joins host Tetiana Anderson for a conversation on efforts to commemorate this historic anniversary.
Anderson: 2019 marks half a century of the fight for LGBTQ equality. First sparked by the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Joining me to talk about the fight for LGBTQ equality is Christy Wallover. She is from the Newseum in Washington, DC, which is featuring an exhibit called "Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement." Christy, thank you for joining us.
Wallover: Thank you for having me.
Anderson: So, what was the incident that happened at the Stonewall Inn that actually sparked that riot?
Wallover: Right, so, it was a raid that happened late Friday night, early Saturday morning. So, basically, the police wanted to sting the Mafia-owned bar. The patrons were basically harassed by the police. Tensions rose, and finally, they fought back.
Anderson: So, that was the sort of flashpoint. But the fact of the matter is that people in the LGBTQ community had been advocating for their civil rights for decades before. The exhibit does a lot to honor that. I thought it. It's fantastic, by the way. How important was it for you to highlight the fact that people were actually using their voices as the impetus for all this?
Wallover: It's important because during the Stonewall riots and the following LGBTQ rights movement, people saw inequality in society and they wanted to fight that injustice. So they took to the streets, they petitioned the government, and they assembled.
Anderson: So, you guys do a lot of focusing on media, publications. You have an exhibit that shows parts of Ellen DeGeneres' show. Why show those things? What does this mean in terms of the overarching message of what was going on in the movement?
Wallover: Right. So, the LGBTQ press played an important role in the movement. It was a way for people to get information, to organize, and then to mobilize, as well. So, magazines from the early stages of the movement, like "The Ladder" from the Daughters of Biltis, the Mattachine Society "Review" were very important in getting this information out. Ellen is an important cultural touchstone. She's also a point of familiarity to understand the movement a little bit better. So, in 1997, when she came out on the show and also in real life, that was an important turning point for the LGBTQ community. And then, in that same area, in our pop-culture area, we talk about "Will & Grace" and that important show because, as you know, Joe Biden mentioned that as his point of reference for the community.
Anderson: The individual is focused a lot on, in this exhibit, as well. You've got Frank Kameny. He was the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. You've got Edie Windsor, whose Supreme Court case basically paved the way for marriage equality here in the United States. Give us a little bit of background on each of their stories.
Wallover: Right. So, Frank Kameny was in the US mapping division of the US Army. He was fired for a solicitation arrest that happened a few years earlier. That happened in a public bathroom, so automatically, people kind of associate that with being gay. As soon as you're found out, you're basically fired from your job. So, he saw this inequality and injustice that didn't really reflect on his work ethic, and fought back. And then Edith Windsor was married to her partner, Thea Spyer. When Thea died, she couldn't collect her spouse rights and the tax things that go along with that. So she took her case to the Supreme Court.
Anderson: And it definitely did make a difference. I interviewed her, actually, after the Supreme Court handed down that decision. And it was a very moving interview, a very integral part, so I'm glad to see you highlighted that. This also focuses on the political world, as well.
Wallover: Yeah. So, we talk about Harvey Milk, we talk about Tammy Baldwin, we bring it up to Danica Roem today, who's doing great things in Virginia. We want to make sure that we tackle those historical milestones but also talk about what's happening right now.
Anderson: And what's sort of the big takeaway that you want, as the writer of this exhibit, for people to walk away with?
Wallover: We want to show people that, you know, throughout history, they have been using their First Amendment rights to make change. But, however, the struggle is still happening. A lot of headlines that we see today circle around LGBTQ rights, and there's still a lot of work to do.
Anderson: Certainly a lot of work to do. So, the exhibit is at the Newseum now. But it's going to be leaving the Newseum. Tell us about that.
Wallover: Yeah, so, starting in the second half of 2020, it will be out on the road. It'll be on the road until 2023. You can look at our website, newseum.org, "Traveling Exhibits," to find out a location near you.
Anderson: Certainly something to see. I hope a lot of people get to do so. Christy Wallover, thank you.
Wallover: Thank you so much.
Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.