Before Stonewall, LGBTQ history Was Made at Bucks County Community College — And Then Forgotten. Until Now. | Newtown News of Interest |

After word got around that Bucks County Community College would be hosting a talk by a “practicing homosexual” on May 9, 1968, the school’s president, Charles E. Rollins, received 100 complaints and decided to cancel the engagement three hours before it was to start.


As many as 200 students promptly held a demonstration that made headlines in college and local newspapers. They also made history a full year before the Stonewall riots launched the modern LGBTQ rights movement and eclipsed most of the pathbreaking events and organizations that preceded it.


Named for a mob-owned Greenwich Village bar that was frequently raided by police, the Stonewall uprising — with two fabulously fierce transgender women of color named Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson as key players — began on June 28, 1969, and continued for six days. StonewalI energized, focused, and intensified the movement and ultimately gave birth to Pride Month.


“High-profile protests like Stonewall don’t come out of nowhere,” said the historian and author Marc Stein, who brought the forgotten Bucks County incident to light with the help of Monica Kuna, director of library services at the college in Newtown, Pa.


Lesbians, gay men, and transgender people “had been swept under the rug, but by the late Sixties the issue was coming in to the public consciousness,” said Daniel Brooks, the founder of New Hope Celebrates, an organization that promotes LGBTQ businesses as well as Pride Month activities in and around New Hope. The artsy tourist destination, located 10 miles north of Newtown, has long had a vibrant gay presence. Brooks also heads up the New Hope Celebrates History project, which is raising money for a documentary film that will tell the story of the local LGBTQ community.


As the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall riots approach, it’s important the Bucks County event be remembered, said Bob Skiba, the curator of collections in the LGBTQ archives at the William Way center in Philadelphia, “because it ties what was going on in gay activism in 1968 with what was going on with antiwar, civil rights, and feminist activism” on and off campus across the country.


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