cover image The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History

The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History

Marc Stein. New York Univ, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4798-1685-9

History professor Stein (Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement) presents a comprehensive collection of 200 transcribed documents from the early stages of the LGBTQ rights movement, centered around the riots at the Stonewall Inn. The book’s first section traces the causes of the riots through, among other documents, legal rulings attesting to an increase in harassment by police, who arrested gay bar patrons on trumped-up charges of “disorderly conduct.” The second section collects eyewitness perspectives on the riots themselves, highlighting fascinating discrepancies in rhetoric; for example, while the New York Times reported that “hundreds of young men went on a rampage,” LGBTQ organization the Mattachine Society compared a patrolling policeman to “a slave-owner surveying the plantation.” The third section focuses on the four years post-riots, as activists of vastly different political persuasions and identities attempted to form a united front featuring “influences of anticolonial politics, antiwar protest, black radicalism, countercultural activism, and women’s liberation.” Stein is a capable curator ; his insightful opening essay and brief introductions to the chapters provide needed context, but he refrains from editorializing, leaving the documents to speak for themselves. This worthwhile dive into LGBTQ history unearths many little-known documents and presents them in a manner accessible to scholars and ordinary readers alike. [em](May) [/em]