Timothy Patrick McCarthy, the core faculty and program director at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, calls the 1969 Stonewall uprising—the LGBTQ community’s volcanic response to a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan—“an unmistakably radical moment, one that helped to unleash a fabulous new ferocity” in the effort to secure LGBTQ rights.
For the occasion of Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, the award-winning scholar, teacher, public servant, and social justice activist has penned an essay in The Nation titled “Reclaiming Stonewall: Welcome to the Celebration—and the Struggle.” In it, he poses the question “What still needs to be done?” a half century later to ensure that everyone has freedom, equality, and dignity.
“After all, we still live in a nation and world where queer people experience disproportionate forms of hatred and violence, prejudice and discrimination,” he writes. “We still exist in a country where too many queer people can be denied housing and employment, where too many queer people are incarcerated and living in poverty, where too many queer youths experience bullying in schools and living on the streets, and where too many queer folks—especially trans people and people of color—are subjected to surveillance and violence by the state and fellow citizens.”
McCarthy’s essay introduces a collection of personal reflections in The Nation on Stonewall and its legacies from LGBTQ activists, artists, and academics ranging in age from 23 to 88 years old.
McCarthy, who holds a faculty appointments in Harvard’s undergraduate honors program in history and literature and the Graduate School of Education in addition to the Harvard Kennedy School, also contributed to a Harvard Gazette piece in which a number of Harvard professors reflect on the riots and their aftermath.
McCarthy tells the Gazette that Stonewall was a singular event but also part of a historic continuum. He says the work of earlier, less-directly-confrontational LGBTQ organizations—including the Mattachine Society, Janus Society, and Daughters of Bilitis—set the stage for the broader, more public movement that followed.
“The foundation for the movement that emerges in fuller form in the wake of Stonewall was laid in the decades before in public and private battles, in different organizations, and through the work of many people,” he says.