Weekend Heller: Jeff Roth’s Archival Pick: The Stonewall

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This is another in a mini-series of archival selections from Jeff Roth, a remarkable archivist, who has not only helped with some of my projects but runs the New York Times morgue, where folders filled with clips and photographs are buried. I’ve asked him to chose five (or more) of this favorite images and tell use why. Today: “The Stonewall Disturbance.”

The Stonewall

Stonewall Bar 1969. 07-02-69. Disturbance on Sheridan Square, NYC. Scenes at Christopher St. and 7th Ave. South with police trying to clear crowds. Pictured, Stonewall Inn which was raided one day last week.
PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Morris/The New York Times.”New York City, Police, Tactical Foot Patrols.” As I’m putting photos and contact sheets in order, one contact catches my eye, “Village disturbance, third night, Stonewall Bar.” I don’t think much of it. When the hundred word story ran in1969., it ran sans photos because In 1969, everyday in NYC had a “disturbance.” It was just, one more. We made a print and filed it away until 2003

“‘Folder # 502-L-46, N.Y.C. Police Dept., Patrols, Tactical’ As I’m putting photos and contact sheets in order, one contact catches my eye, ‘Village disturbance, third night, Stonewall Bar.’ I don’t think much of it. When the hundred word story ran in1969., it ran sans photos because In 1969, every day in NYC had a “disturbance.” It was just, one more. We made a print and filed it away until 2003.”

“I go get the negs, we scan the five frames and I say, “well now we got a few shots of the riot, we’ll make some bread on those “Anniversary” stories.” A few years later, PBS rings us out of breath. “Where did you get these photos?  These are historic! Very few news shots of the bar during the melee exist.” As history goes, there was about a twenty year gap between when the disturbance happened and when the “Stonewall Riot” became part of American History, so we never noticed them.

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