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Image taken from Gay Flames Pamphlet, no. 7. Courtesy of the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

A year after the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, LGBT people from across New York City gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of the gay liberation movement. Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD) was a rare moment of unity among New York City's divergent gay groups, who came together "despite political and social differences" to "affirm our pride, our lifestyle and our commitment to each other."[1] To accommodate the interests of the many different groups participating, the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee named the days leading up to the march "Gay Pride Week," when individual organizations could host their own events and activities.[2] Throughout the week, gay liberationists took part in everything from dances, movie nights, and workshops to Consciousness-Raisinggroups and demonstrations in support of legal reform.[3]

On the morning of June 28th, 1970, gay activists convened for the first annual Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Gathering on Christopher Street, marchers made their way up 6th Avenue to Central Park, where they spent the afternoon listening to speeches, hanging out on the lawn, and reveling in the excitement of having been part of the first gay pride march in history. Although the march began with only a few hundred participants, more and more individuals joined along the way. By the time the first marchers reached Central Park, thousands followed behind them.


Marchers relax in Central Park. Photograph by Richard C. Wandel. Courtesy of the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community Center National History Archive.

Christopher Street Liberation Day became an annual event, and today, gay pride parades take place in cities across the country and around the world. These parades, which feature prominent politicians and corporate-sponsored floats, often seem to bare little resemblance to the early marches. Nonetheless, they remain an important way for LGBT individuals to celebrate their history and affirm their unity, pride, and power.

Bebe Scarpi, Jerry Hoose, and Michael Lavery remember the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March, and reflect on everything that it has become