A History of Pride Around the Park

June 8 2017

Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, New York City has honored June as LGBT Pride Month. And while the riots at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn are considered the official start of the LGBT rights movement in the United States, New York’s history of LGBT activism spanned for decades before then. From the earliest movements, Washington Square Park was always a place for LGBT activists to organize, rally, and protest.

This Pride Month, we wanted to take you on a visual journey through the Park and the area surrounding it to:

The first-ever unofficial Pride March was held one month after the Stonewall Riots. Activists organized the Gay and Lesbian March, which started in Christopher Park and ended at the Stonewall Inn. More than 500 people came to show their support.

Activist Marty Robinson addresses hundreds at Christopher Park. Photo courtesy of NBCNews.

In 1973, the third Pride Parade started at Central Park and ended with a rally at Washington Square Park. Thousands of people gathered—including entertainers, like Bette Midler and Barry Manilow—to advocate for LGBT rights.

Bette Midler performing at the Arch at the Gay Liberation March in 1973. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Judson Memorial Church was a site of gatherings for many LGBT groups. In the 1980s, Rev. Howard Moody and the church were one of the first to open its doors and respond with compassion amid the AIDS crisis.

Arlene Carmen, Al Carmines, and Howard Moody helped thousands of New Yorkers at the Judson Memorial Church. Photo courtesy of the Judson Memorial Church.

History was changed just one block away from the Park in an apartment at 2 Fifth Avenue. The Gay Men’s Health Crisis was founded in Larry Kramer’s living room to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS. GMHC is no longer a Park neighbor, but it is still one of the world’s leading providers of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Larry Kramer started the GMHC in his living room at 2 Fifth Avenue. Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast.

In 1993, the Dyke March was organized to demonstrate lesbian rights and visibility. Each year, thousands of people march from Bryant Park to Washington Square Park the Saturday before the Pride March.

The first Dyke March was held in 1993. Photo courtesy of Carolina Kroon.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Park was—and still is—home to protests, celebrations, and rallies for LGBT rights. In June, we always look forward to the vibrancy Pride brings to the Park and the Village. We’re proud to work in a neighborhood that has been a safe space for people from all walks of life to enjoy.

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Pride 2015. Photo courtesy of Jayne Wexler on Tumblr.

If you’d like to learn more about LGBT history in New York City, we encourage you to visit the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.