Professor Stein: Queens County's Role in LGBT History, Politics Often Overlooked

Friday, August 09, 2019
Photo of elevated train in Queens County with New York City skyline in the background

NYU PRESS, FROM THE SQUARE -- Marc Stein is the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Professor of History at San Francisco State University. His most recent book is The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History, now available from NYU Press.

“According to the 1970 Census, Queens was home to two million people, well above Manhattan’s 1.5 million, but it was significantly less diverse — 85 percent white, as opposed to Manhattan’s 71 percent,” Stein writes. “In 1969, when I turned 6 years old, Queens displayed little of the bohemian cosmopolitanism, left politics or sexual diversity that I would later come to associate with Manhattan.

“And yet in the summer of 1969, sexual repression and resistance in Queens received far more media attention than did the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan.

“Could that possibly be true? In June, the world marked the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, justifiably understood as a momentous turning point in LGBT history. But as many commentators have noted, it was only later — and especially when the riots were commemorated with marches, protests, and parades on their anniversary — that the Stonewall uprising became central to the ways that we imagine and narrate LGBT history.”