When President Barack Obama mentioned Stonewall in the same breath as Seneca Falls and Selma in his second Inaugural Address, LGBTQ people around the country thrilled to hear our nation’s leader recognizing the importance of our struggle for social and legal acceptance—a struggle that rioted its way out of a dive bar and into mainstream consciousness during the summer of 1969. Now, Obama is reportedly set to further honor that history by designating a small portion of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village as the first LGBTQ-themed national monument in American history.
According to the Washington Post, the pronouncement of the proposed site—which will center on the Stonewall Inn (a still-operating gay bar) and the tiny Christopher Park just across the street—is, while not yet confirmed, tentatively projected for June, which is Pride month in the United States. A “listening session” led by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, will gather feedback from community stakeholders on May 9, and in the meantime, city and state officials have been working to sort out any issues with the land title. Assuming all goes according to plan, the monument designation will be the first major success in a larger effort by the National Park Service to locate and interpret the history of different minority groups in America.
The Stonewall Inn is already a national historic landmark, a largely symbolic designation applied to thousands of historical sites around the country. The monument designation would have the effect of transferring ownership of Christopher Park from the city to the federal government and management responsibilities to the National Park Service. (The Stonewall Inn itself would remain in private hands.) Interpreters would also presumably be on site to educate visitors on the story of the riots and LGBTQ American history more broadly. Considering how many tourists come through New York City each year and visit the existing NPS sites, having the imprimatur of the all-American organization on LGBTQ people and our ongoing fight for equality is not only an act of preservation—it’s a quiet, but powerful, sort of activism.