The Atlantic publishes essay by Professor Jim Downs
Jim Downs, professor of history and director of Connecticut College’s American studies program, argues in a new essay in The Atlantic that networks of activists transformed the Stonewall uprising of 1969 from an isolated event into a turning point in the gay liberation movement, and traces the origins of that activism to an unlikely place: a bookstore.
Downs tells the story of the first gay bookshop—the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, opened in New York in 1967 by activist Craig Rodwell—and its impact in the lead up to Stonewall.
“Activists like Rodwell understood the value of visibility; he was among the architects of New York’s gay-pride parade. But some were struggling not just for rights or liberation, but for something still more revolutionary,” he wrote.
“They were fighting for what they called ‘gay power,’ the authority to define their own identity. Their efforts produced the intellectual revolution that lent the Stonewall protests their power, and which helped ensure that long after the protests were over, the changes they wrought would endure.”
The article, “Before Stonewall, There Was a Bookstore,” is part of a The Atlantic series about the gay-rights movement and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.