Looking back at 50 years of pride festivals

Written by:
June 10, 2019

Looking back at 50 years of Pride festivals

The United States is preparing to observe the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event that marked a turning point for gay rights and gay liberation in America. Since Stonewall, members of the LGBTQ+ community have commemorated the movement through Pride Month, with festivals occurring all over the country and across the world.

Stonewall refers to the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in downtown Manhattan whose community was wrought by constant police raids stemming from governmental and police discrimination. The morning of June 28, 1969, marked the beginning of this chapter in the gay-liberation movement, with a riot resulting in a lengthy clash between community members and bar patrons against the police.

Fifty years later, the state of New York is planning to hold the largest LGBTQ+ pride celebration in global history. In preparation for this monumental and historical observance, Stacker has sought photos from the past 50 years of pride festivals. This will form a sort of chronology of pride, going all the way back to the Stonewall riots that originated the movement.

These photos represent not only American pride movements but international pride festivals and causes as well. Other than New York City, these pictures also capture moments in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Madrid, and more. Each comes with its own unique story, as societal norms evolve, regulations pass, and new generations change hands.

Each slide will give context to the photo and provide further relevant information about any events that occurred to pride in that year.

You may also like: 50 of the best albums by LGBTQ musicians

1 / 50
STAN HONDA/AFP // Getty Images

1969: New York City Stonewall riots

The birth of Pride Month came not from a festival, but an uprising and a yearning for justice. In an age dominated by paranoia and McCarthyism, gay community members, particularly those in the Stonewall Inn at NYC, found themselves subject to numerous police raids. One such raid resulted in a riot from community members, led by Black transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, with the event immortalized in the pride festivals that came in the years to come.

2 / 50
Peter Keegan // Getty Images

1970: NYC Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD) March

One year after the Stonewall riots, activists organized the Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD) March to observe the anniversary. The tone was more of a celebration, with some calling it a “parade” more than a march. Still, CSLD was marked with a more-somber tone given its origins.

3 / 50
Evening Standard // Getty Images

1971: London

The gay liberation movement was prominent in London, though the city's first official UK Gay Pride Rally didn't take place until 1972. Despite being across the Atlantic, the official Pride event was held specifically to commemorate the Stonewall riots, with the first rally taking place on the closest Saturday to the anniversary.

4 / 50
Peter Keegan // Getty Images

1975: New York City

By the year 1975, the NYC-based Gay Liberation Front that formed immediately after Stonewall disbanded. This, of course, didn't stop the pride festivities in the city. In 1975, the march for the annual parade would cover the area from New York's 4th Street to 59th Street.

5 / 50
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1977: London

Gay-pride demonstrations in London had something more to fight for in the year 1977. Social conservative Mary Whitehouse had brought a case for libel against the publication Gay News that was eventually ruled in her favor. The march that year was not only a celebration but an opportunity for protest.

6 / 50
STRINGER/AFP // Getty Images

1977: Paris

The first gay-pride parade in Paris, France, wasn't until 1977, with a famous image having marchers hold up a banner that states “Homosexual Liberation Group, Politics and daily life.” The Paris march celebrated its 40th anniversary in May 2017.

7 / 50
Brian Alpert/Keystone // Getty Images

1979: NYC 10th anniversary Stonewall

The year of 1979 was significant for the gay-rights movement, with that year's Pride parade occurring on the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. As part of the festivities, a station wagon carrying members of the original 13 people arrested at the Stonewall Inn was in the parade.

8 / 50
Brian Alpert // Getty Images

1979: NYC 10th anniversary Stonewall

The 10th anniversary of Stonewall was crowded to a then-unprecedented degree, with crowd estimates ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 people. At one point, the crowd stretched out about 30 blocks, taking up all of Sheep Meadow.

9 / 50
Peter Keegan // Getty Images

1980: New York City

Despite some strong condemnation of homosexuality from certain religious sects, Catholic priests would sometimes participate in the marches. It is either out of support for tolerance or to “represent a much higher number of priests who did not come.”

10 / 50
Peter Keegan/Keystone // Getty Images

1982: New York City

Around 100 groups participated in the 1982 NYC Pride March, amongst them lesbians fighting for visibility. As it usually is in New York City, the march was predictably crowded, with estimates from organizers coming in at 100,000 and estimations of 40,000 by the police.

11 / 50
Peter Keegan // Getty Images

1983: New York City

Fourteen years after the Stonewall riots and 13 years after the founding of the Gay Alliance Association, the gay community and their supporters marched in dedication to the victims of the AIDS crisis. Among the many groups that took part were Parents of Lesbians and Gays, Gay Teachers, and Gay Psychologists.

12 / 50
MoSchle // Wikimedia Commons

1983: San Francisco, CA

Despite being on the opposite coast, “Gay Capital of America” San Francisco has had experiences with gay rights and liberation parallel to those of New York City. After winning the right to officially assemble in public in 1951, communities in San Francisco still had the problem of police raids and discriminatory behavior. Annual marches would also take place after Stonewall, including one in 1983 amidst the AIDS crisis.

13 / 50
Alan Light // Flickr

1985: Chicago Pride Parade

In solidarity with the Stonewall riots and the movement that began afterward, Chicago would also begin hosting annual gay-pride parades starting in 1970. Chicago is the home of the first American gay rights group, the Society for Human Rights, founded by postal worker Henry Gerber. Since 1970, Chicago has celebrated with a month of pride festivities.

14 / 50
Alan Light // Wikimedia Commons

1986: San Francisco, CA

With the theme of “Forward Together, No Turning Back,” San Francisco held yet another International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1986. Months before, activist Cleve Jones would create the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was estimated to weigh 54 tons.

15 / 50
Joseph T. Barna/National Museum of American History // Wikimedia Commons

1989: NYC 20th anniversary Stonewall

1989 marked the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, with many cities hosting pride marches with numbers in the hundreds of thousands each. The New York City parade had a host of colorful floats and “outrageous costumes,” according to a reporter.

16 / 50
David Prasad // Flickr

1991: Los Angeles, CA

Unity was the theme of the 1991 Los Angeles pride celebration, with the mantra of “Together in Pride.” Estimations have the crowd size somewhere around 125,000 people, with members representing 206 organizations.

17 / 50
Seattle Municipal Archives // Flickr

1993: Seattle, WA

Seattle is said to have celebrated their first Gay Pride Week in June 1974, with an official endorsement from the city's mayor in 1977. Representing the community was the Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays.

18 / 50

1993: Washington D.C.

With Washington D.C. being the political capital of the United States, it is the sensible ground for highly political protests advocating for legislative change. In 1993, about 1 million gay-rights demonstrators marched against anti-gay discrimination and for AIDS research.

19 / 50
Steve Eason/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1993: London

By 1993, the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual people in the U.K. was not yet equal rendering young gay love as a sex crime. It became one of the biggest issues during the pride celebrations in London.

20 / 50
Steve Eason/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1995: London

After much protest, the age of consent for homosexuals was lowered from 21 to 18 under Conservative Prime Minister John Major's government. However, this was still higher than the heterosexual age of consent of 16, giving marchers in London Pride more reason to protest in 1995.

21 / 50
Steve Eason // Getty Images

1996: London

Participants of pride in London continued to show their solidarity with Stonewall decades later. The march in 1996, in particular, featured gay men making subversive statements about religion by impersonating the Pope and members of the mafia.

22 / 50
Monica M. DAVEY/AFP // Getty Images

1996: San Francisco, CA

Pride and protest often intertwine, with 1996 bringing protests against a Republican-sponsored bill that President Bill Clinton promised to sign that banned gay marriage. Around 300,000 people took part in the parade, braving 93-degree weather.

23 / 50
STAN HONDA/AFP // Getty Images

1999: NYC 30th anniversary of Stonewall

The observance of the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall riots brought some distinct participants. Firefighters and law enforcement officials came out to join the parade, as did veterans of the original Stonewall riots and movements against police.

24 / 50
Franco Origlia // Getty Images

2000: Rome, Italy hosts first WorldPride

The Vatican could not stop the gay-rights movement in Italy, where tens of thousands of gay community members marched through Rome in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. It was the first occasion of WorldPride, an international celebration that will finally reach New York City for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.

25 / 50
Spencer Platt // Getty Images

2002: New York City

With the first pride festival after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many took the time to observe the first responders and service people who openly identify as gay. The parade started at Fifth Avenue and continued on all the way to Greenwich Village.

26 / 50
Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau // Getty Images

2003: Key West, FL

The Rainbow 25 and Pride Fest Key West event unveiled the longest gay pride flag, measuring around one and a quarter mile. Gilbert Baker, who designed and sewed the original rainbow pride flag in 1978 for a San Francisco gay-rights rally, designed it.

27 / 50
Justin Sullivan // Getty Images

2004: San Francisco celebrates civil unions

Earlier in 2004, the city of San Francisco issued marriage licenses to gay couples, from February to March of that year. As such, support for gay marriage and acknowledgment of those marriages were prime topics for the 2004 San Francisco Pride Parade.

28 / 50
TED ALJIBE/AFP // Getty Images

2005: Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong had been host to smaller demonstrations against homophobia, such as one held in 2005. It wouldn't be until three years later in 2008 where Hong Kong held its first official pride event, a colorful gathering of around 1,000 people celebrating queerness and identity.

29 / 50
Justin Sullivan // Getty Images

2006: San Francisco, CA

The Dykes on Bikes lesbian motorcycle club has had a presence at pretty much every pride parade worldwide since its inception in 1976. The group's first formal appearance was in San Francisco, although in recent years the group may use names like “Women's Motorcycle Contingent” to be more inclusive.

30 / 50
BRU GARCIA/AFP // Getty Images

2007: Madrid, Spain hosts Europride

Madrid was the host of the most-attended Europride event, featuring an estimated 2.5 million people. This number included around 200,000 attendants from abroad. Madrid was one of the first Spanish cities with reform for gay rights, including laws on marriage and adoption.

31 / 50
Spencer Platt // Getty Images

2009: NYC Stonewall 40th anniversary

The 2009 pride parades celebrated 40 years of “cultural, legal, political and community progress” after the 1969 Stonewall riots. The annual march at this point in time still held thousands of participants and around 170 floats in the parade.

32 / 50

2009: Bangalore, India

In 2009, the largely conservative country of India organized a gay pride parade to protest the government's long-standing laws barring gay sex, in the hopes that the government would decriminalize homosexuality by reviewing those laws. These marches in India marked the second year in a row of pride events in a country where queerness is considered taboo.

33 / 50
JACK GUEZ/AFP // GettyImages

2012: Tel Aviv, Israel

Major pride events in Israel have occurred in Tel Aviv, which hosted the first official parade in 1993. Ever since then, Tel Aviv's Pride Parade has claimed to be the largest one in continental Asia, with over 200,000 attendees, 30,000 of whom came from abroad.

34 / 50
EvrenKalinbacak // Shutterstock

2013: Istanbul, Turkey

Gay community members from Turkey, the first Muslim-majority country to hold these marches and parades, gathered at Taksim Square for the Istanbul Pride Parade. The 2013 event, in particular, was significant for reaching a national record of 100,000 attendees.

35 / 50
Carsten Koall // Getty Images

2016: Berlin, Germany Christopher Street Day (CSD)

Berlin uses the classic and historic name for the gay pride marches: Christopher Street Day, or CSD. About 500 people attended the very first celebration in 1979, but the number has since grown. The march became one of the biggest pride celebrations in the world, especially in the 2010s as the fight for gay marriage gained momentum.

36 / 50
Brendon Thorne // Getty Images

2014: Sydney, Australia

Most cities hold their pride parades in the summer, but Sydney also holds a Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Taking place earlier in the year, the parade still observes the Stonewall riots, though with its own lavish celebratory flair.

37 / 50
Jasper Juinen // Getty Images

2014: Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Gay Pride festivities are quite crowded, drawing around 500,000 people from across the globe. One part of the event is the Amsterdam canal parade: In 2014, 79 boats with people in fancy costumes traveled from the Prinsengracht Canal to the Amstel River.

38 / 50

2014: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rivaling the New York City pride parades in size, São Paulo draws in large numbers every year. The second-largest pride parade in Brazil would be in Rio de Janeiro, which draws in about 2 million people annually to the city's gorgeous beaches.

39 / 50
HOANG DINH NAM/AFP // Getty Images

2014: Hanoi, Vietnam

Official gay pride events are still young in Vietnam, with the first being held in Hanoi in the year 2012. The marches have since continued on, with the 2014 event attracting about 300 people for a colorful bike parade.

40 / 50
TIZIANA FABI/AFP // Getty Images

2014: Rome, Italy

Pride parades expanded in different parts of Italy by 2013, but Rome still held their official events, including one in 2014. 

41 / 50
Josh Edelson/AFP // Getty Image

2015: San Francisco, CA, celebrating Supreme Court Ruling regarding same-sex marriage

The 2015 pride celebrations coincided with a significant and historic ruling from the Supreme Court, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. “Love wins” was the mantra, with San Francisco, in particular, reveling in the new development.

42 / 50
Chris J Ratcliffe // Getty Images

2016: London

London was one of many cities around the world to stand with Orlando, Fla., which two weeks prior to pride marches had suffered from a fatal shooting at a gay nightclub called Pulse. The shootings were motivated by homophobia, making the celebrations more solemn.

43 / 50

2016: Berlin, Germany, Christopher Street Day (CSD)

Christopher Street Day (CSD) remained a mainstay for the gay German community by 2016. It wouldn't be until the year after in which gay marriage would finally be legalized in the country.

44 / 50
Ian Willms // Getty Images

2016: Toronto, Canada

The 2016 Pride festivities in Toronto were significant in having the participation of a sitting Prime Minister for the first time. Justin Trudeau drew loud cheers from the large crowd as he sang along to Lady Gaga's “Born This Way.”

45 / 50
Lucky Team Studio // Shutterstock

2016: NYC Stonewall Inn receives National Landmark status

During Barack Obama's last year as President, he publicly designated Stonewall Inn as a National Landmark. Christopher Street Park also received the same landmark status.

46 / 50

2017: Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik Pride in Iceland first officially took place in 1999. This coming Pride parade will mark the event's 20th anniversary. Each festival attracts around 100,000 participants, roughly a third of the country's population.

47 / 50
OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP // Getty Images

2017: Madrid WorldPride

Ten years after an already record-setting pride event in Madrid, the Spanish city attracted even larger numbers for its 2017 WorldPride event. Celebrating 40 years since the country's first parade, Madrid WorldPride 2017 attracted participants from around the world.

48 / 50
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

2018: New York City

Many organizations have taken the banner in leading NYC pride events, with the most recent being Heritage of Pride. A nonprofit organization that has been organizing the events since 1984; they will be behind the 50th anniversary festivities in 2019.

49 / 50
RODGER BOSCH/AFP // Getty Images

2019: Cape Town, South Africa

The country of South Africa began holding pride events at the end of the apartheid era in 1990. Cape Town Pride, in particular, had been interrupted in previous years, but the festival commenced this year in March in full force.

50 / 50
Takashi Aoyama // Getty Images

2019: Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Pride parades have occurred since 1994, with the modern parade beginning in 2000. Different organizations and committees have been in charge of the event, though disorganization has prevented the parade from being held in certain years. However, that didn't stop the festival this year, which began on April 28 and lasted through the week.

Trending Now