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New York City  
 
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Broadway also saw the arrival of gay, lesbian, and bisexual playwrights, most notably Tennessee Williams, William Inge, and Edward Albee. They produced smash hits on Broadway, where they often brought a homosexual sensibility to bear on the sexual and existential crises of 1950s conformist America.

Lorraine Hansberry, whose play A Raisin in the Sun was a hit in 1959, was the first black woman ever to have a play produced on Broadway. She was married, but had had lesbian affairs and had once written for The Ladder, the lesbian rights publication. The title of her play, taken from a poem by Langston Hughes-- "What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry like a raisin in the sun? / Or does it explode?"--refers to the struggle of blacks for civil rights and dignity, a struggle that also resonated with homosexuals.

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Gay poets Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler were intimately involved with the abstract expressionist painters who had created the leading artistic movement in the postwar world. The poets had developed a playful and irreverent style that mixed high art and popular culture and broke with the "high-serious" tradition of modern poetry pioneered by T. S. Eliot.

Several leading figures of the second generation of postwar American artists were bisexual or gay, including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. These artists, identified as the proponents of Pop Art, followed in the footsteps of gay poets such as O'Hara, Ashbery, and Schuyler by combining figures of popular culture with the techniques pioneered by the heroic (and predominantly heterosexual) figures of abstract expressionism.

Gay culture in the 1950s was invested in protecting the "secret" of an individual's homosexuality, expressing it only in a symbolic or heavily coded way. Many of these gay writers and artists reflected to some degree the camp aesthetic that was prevalent in 1950s gay culture. Gay men, transvestites, and lesbians frequently reacted to the era's oppression by engaging in camp's flamboyant, irony-charged humor. The ironic interplay between popular culture and high culture, a common trait of the camp aesthetic, was especially significant in the work of O'Hara, Johns, Warhol, and Albee.

Most gay bars of the era were located either in Greenwich Village or along Third Avenue (called "Queer Street" by writer James McCourt). The Village scene continued its bohemian tradition. The bar Julius, located on the corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place, is one of the longest continuously operating gay bars in history. Founded as a speakeasy during Prohibition, it still exists today.

Beebo Brinker, while only a fictional character in the lesbian pulps of Ann Bannon, was nevertheless a typical New York City lesbian of the 1940s and 1950s. Brinker, a young butch, working-class dyke, discovers the lesbian bar life of postwar Greenwich Village. She would have been right at home in Mona's, a popular and long-lived lesbian bar founded during World War II.

Like Brinker, young lesbians in search of others like themselves, moved to the Village. Experiencing hostility to her lesbianism in Harlem, Audre Lorde, a young black poet, moved to the Village in the 1950s. Her remarkable book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) recounts her experience there.

Like other nascent gay neighborhoods, Third Avenue between East 45th and 52nd Streets was a slightly rundown stretch overshadowed by the tracks of an elevated train that ran over it. The string of gay bars along Third Avenue, with names like the Golden Cockerel, the Yellow Cockatoo, the Swan, the Golden Pheasant, and the Blue Parrot, became known as the "Bird Circuit."

Stonewall, Gay Liberation, and After, 1969-1979

In 1969, a police raid on a Greenwich Village bar called the Stonewall Inn provoked a series of riots that brought together drag queens, street hustlers, lesbians, and gay men, many of whom had been politicized by the movement against the war in Vietnam.

There were already many signs that homosexuals were in the process of creating a civil rights movement, inspired, in part, by the black struggles of the 1960s, but the Stonewall riots of 1969 crystallized a broad grass-roots mobilization across the country.

The gay movement that emerged after Stonewall sprang from the clash of two cultures and two generations--the underground homosexual subculture of the 1950s and 1960s and the 1960s New Left, youth oriented counterculture.

The first political organization formed in wake of the Stonewall riots was the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), named in honor of the National Liberation Front, the Vietnamese resistance movement, and as a gesture toward the unity of the struggles of blacks, the poor, the colonized in the Third World, and women.

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