Stonewall Uprising

Remember that the first action of the Committee for Homosexual Freedom took place in the first week of April 1969, nearly three months before Stonewall. Of course, the events that happened in New York City in the early midnight hours of June 28 would become a prime focus for historians of the Gay Liberation movement. For a historian of social movements, it’s often an exercise in futility to try and pinpoint causality. Did the events in San Francisco three months prior to Stonewall play any part in the events that hot summer night in Greenwich Village three thousand miles away? In reading through the underground press, the only mention of the Committee for Homosexual Freedom in San Francisco was the articles in the Berkeley Barb. I found nothing in the East Village Other, for example, one of the sister underground papers that all shared their stories through the Underground Press Syndicate.

But there are two tantalizing bits of evidence of a connection. Leo Laurence reported on the Stonewall Uprising in the July 4, 1969, issue of the Berkeley Barb. In the story, he reported talking with J. Marks, an eyewitness to the second night’s events. Laurence quoted Marks as saying, “The gay community in New York City has been inspired by your homosexual liberation stories in the BARB.” Gale Whittington in his memoir states that “several” Stonewall activists contacted the San Francisco group to say they took inspiration from the militant CHF activities that spring. “They said if we could do it here, they could stand up for their rights there.” One of the outcomes of the Stonewall Uprising in June was that a group of activists in New York City came together two nights later and formed the Gay Liberation Front which had a more pronounced revolutionary ring to it than Committee for Homosexual Freedom. Over the next few months both CHF and GLF were used interchangeably until finally GLF became the name of choice.