Different fight, ‘same goal’: How the Black freedom movement inspired early gay activists

On April 25, 1965, three teenagers refused to leave Dewey’s Restaurant in Philadelphia after employees repeatedly denied service to “homosexuals and persons wearing nonconformist clothing,” according to Drum magazine, which was created by the Janus Society, an early gay rights group. The teens were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, and Janus Society members protested outside of the restaurant for the next five days, according to Marc Stein, a history professor at San Francisco State University. “Unlike so many other episodes, it kind of combined issues of homosexuality and trans issues,” Stein, author of “Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement,” told NBC News. On May 2, three more people staged a second sit-in at Dewey’s. Though the restaurant called the police, the protesters weren’t arrested, and after a few hours they left voluntarily, according to a Janus Society newsletter. The Society wrote that the protests and sit-ins were successful in preventing future denials of service and arrests. The sit-in at Dewey’s is among a long list of examples that show a “direct line” to the Black civil rights movement, according to Stein. Specifically, sit-ins organized by gay activists in the ‘60s appear to be directly inspired by protests held in 1960 by Black college students at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, against racial segregation.