Raid to Rally – 1969 to 1970

By the late 1960s, Atlanta’s lesbian and gay scene existed alongside established yet quiet social networks of women and men. Both segregated according to race, gender, age, and class. For older generations of gay women and men, private house parties, backyard barbeques, and Sunday dinners were primary means of socializing. For younger women and men or those willing to venture out publicly, popular lounges, restaurants, and taverns catered to sexually diverse clientele, while an increasing number of establishments served a nearly exclusive gay base. Among those listed in the 1969 International Gay Guide are the Blue Room in the American Motel and Cameo Lounge on Spring Street; Dupree’s Lounge and Restaurant, Joy Lounge, and Mrs. P’s on Ponce de Leon Avenue; the Club South Baths; and the Prince George Inn.

In early August 1969, just weeks after the New York City Stonewall riots, Atlanta police raided a local theatre during a screening of Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys. In addition to arresting the projectionist and confiscating the film print, the police photographed those they believed to be homosexual. Shortly after the event, a group of concerned young gay women and men meet and later formed the Georgia Gay Liberation Front; some of them held a rally in Piedmont Park the following year. The Great Speckled Bird, the city’s underground newspaper, reported on the raid, news of gay liberation activities in New York and San Francisco, and what was the beginning of Atlanta’s gay rights movement.

During the 1950s and most of the 1960s, no known homophile organizations existed in Atlanta to advocate for social change. As the 1960s came to an end, the city’s older system of quiet accommodation existed side-by-side with a younger, more vocal, and more visible model influenced by various social and cultural movements. As the 1970s unfolded, private and public life changed dramatically for the city’s gay populace.