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Monday, June 28, 2021

From March to Marketing: The Changing Face of Pride

By Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.

The Stonewall uprising of 1969 was triggered by a New York Police Department (NYPD) raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located at 53 Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  Although a common NYPD practice at the time, on this particular occasion patrons rebelled and fought back, igniting the spark leading to the modern gay rights movements. The Archives Center at NMAH has been actively collecting documents, ephemera, and Pride-related materials since the early 2000s.

While the uprising may have been the spark, the marches commemorating the uprising the following year were the fire. The first celebrations, termed “Gay Liberation Day” or “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” later to be known as Pride, were held on June 27 and 28, 1970 in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco. Many LGBTQ organizations, including the Daughters of Bilitis, Gay Activists Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society, and others converged on these major cities to, in the words of one New York City marcher, “serve notice on every politician in the state and nation that homosexuals are not going to hide any more.” Even though the number of national and international Pride celebrations continues to grow annually, the road to universal celebration has not been smooth, with local LGBTQ organizations often encountering social and legal roadblocks before being allowed to celebrate. * 

Program for the Christopher Street Pride Celebration in Los Angeles, California, July 1976.

Central Intelligence Agency poster collected at Washington, DC Pride in 2019.

As the LGBTQ community has gained broader acceptance, one aspect of Pride that has changed radically is the corporate and community presence at Pride street fairs. During early Pride celebrations recognizable corporate logos, participating community organizations, churches, educational institutions, and locally based businesses were few or non-existent. During present-day celebrations more and more groups, businesses, and entities look to celebrate the event and compete to be a Pride sponsor. Multi-national corporations such as Comcast, Lockheed Martin, and Price Waterhouse Coopers, LLP, actively promote their companies at Pride. Government agencies, among them, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Park Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) showcase their internal LGBTQ affinity groups as well as highlight employment opportunities. Colleges, universities, local businesses, and community organizations all vie for prime table space at Pride street fairs.

Modern day Pride has become an opportunity for not only celebration and commemoration but also for product and service advertising, educational and community organizations to dispense information, businesses to target potential customers, all the while remaining a diverse platform for performers, activists, and community leaders. The progression of Pride will be the subject of an upcoming NMAH Tuesday Colloquium on August 10, illustrated with items from the Archives Center's collections.

* Sources:

“Thousands of Homosexuals Hold a Protest Rally in Central Park,” Fosburgh, Lacey, New York Times, June 29, 1970, page 1.

“15 to 20,000 Join Homosexual March.” Battenfeld, John for United Press International. The Atlanta Constitution, June 29, 1970, page 2A.

“Homosexuals Get ACLU Aid in Fight for Parade Permit.” Houston, Paul, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1970, page A1.

“Homosexuals Stage Hollywood Parade,” Houston, Paul. Los Angeles Times, June 29, page 3.

“Gay Liberation Stages March to Civic Center,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1970, page A3.

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., Archivist, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

If you wish to attend Franklin Robinson's August 10 colloquium on Zoom, which will feature Archives Center collection items, contact David Haberstich at

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