By John Gilbert McCurdy
In October 1757, the New York Common Council authorized the construction of the Upper Barracks. It was to be a massive building: 420 feet long and 20 feet wide, consisting of two stories and enough space to sleep 800 men. Such a structure dwarfed anything else in the city; it was longer than a city block and twice as large as Trinity Church. The Committee for the Building of the New Barracks situated the barracks at what was then the northern edge of New York, placing them on the city common where Broadway split into roads leading to the suburbs of Greenwich Village and the Bowery. As carpenters set to work, the Upper Barracks claimed a privileged position in New York, placing the city under the watchful gaze of the British army.
Reviewed by Leslie Day
By Frampton Tolbert
Today on the blog, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with a series of short essays by activists, writers, and scholars whose lives and work have been shaped by the events of June 1969 and their aftermath. This year, the scale of celebration and commemoration in New York is larger than ever — more than 4 million people are expected to attend this weekend’s festivities, and an estimated 115,000 people will be marching at Pride. In the city, more than two dozen different exhibitions that engage with LGBTQ art, history, and activism are on view, and two recently published anthologies, The Stonewall Reader and The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History, invite 2019 readers to interpret the events at Stonewall by revisiting sources from the time.
Alongside this wealth of celebration and commemoration, there is also tension and unrest. Social and legal gains for LGBTQ people have been numerous since 1969; the declassification of homosexuality and gender variance as mental illnesses, the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, and the growth in employment and housing protections for LGBTQ people are all the fruits of decades of activism. At the same time, these benefits have reached members of the community unevenly and have deepened existing rifts and fueled increasingly urgent debates about how to set priorities, how to allocate resources, and how to shape the discourse around LGBTQ rights.
The Stonewall Uprising and the way it is remembered is intrinsic to this tension. We variously mark the anniversary with celebration of how far we’ve come and with urgent reminders of how far we’ve yet to go. At the Gotham blog, we’ve chosen to embrace the debate and offer a cross-section of it here, rather than attempting to assert a single, settled interpretation of what Stonewall means in 2019. There are eight million stories in the naked city; today we offer nine of them. — Katie Uva, ed.
By Perry Brass
By Emily Brooks
Interference Archive is a Brooklyn-based organization that collects and houses materials created as part of social movements. These materials, which include posters, flyers, publications, buttons, and much more, are stored and exhibited in an open stacks archival collection at 314 7th street in Park Slope. In addition to organizing and maintaining the collection, which is open to all, Interference’s volunteers also showcase the archival collections through exhibits and various community events aimed at supporting contemporary activism. This spring, I sat down with two of Interference’s volunteers, Ryan and Nora, to talk about how the space works and the role they see the archive playing in connecting social movements of the past with those of today.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
By Chloe Smolarski
By Andy Battle
“City of Workers, City of Struggle.” Since its founding, New York has been emphatically both. A new exhibit with this name, up at the Museum of the City of New York until January, communicates the ways in which the shape of the present city — physical, economic, social, and cultural — has been given to us by the cumulative struggles of its workers for material well-being, autonomy, and a dignified life. The main goal, according to lead curator Steven H. Jaffe, is to communicate “just how intertwined the rise of modern New York City is with working people and their movements.”
The show fulfills this commitment. Housed in a second-floor gallery, the exhibition marshals text, artifacts, images, sound, video, and interactive games to survey the history of work and workers’ struggles in New York from the industrial revolution through the present day. Four main sections -- “In Union There Is Strength” (1830–1900), “Labor Will Rule” (1900–1965) “Sea Change” (1965–2001), and “New Challenges” — chart the ways in which workers both inside and outside the formal labor movement have sought to wrestle the terms of their relationships with their employers, with the state, and with each other to make the conditions for a fulfilling life available to those born without riches. The exhibition also details the ways in which the struggles of New York workers have served as the spearhead of national movements to realize these goals.
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