Gay Stonewall historian dies of a heart attack, aged 67

Stonewall historian David Carter speaking in New York in 2009. (Screenshot/Fora TV/YouTube)

David Carter, the gay historian who authored the “definitive history” of the Stonewall Uprising, has died from a heart attack at the age of 67.

Carter died May 1 in his New York apartment, according to the Washington Blade.

His brother, Bill, told local media that doctors believed Carter had died of a heart attack.

The gay historian wrote Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, which was published in 2004 and cemented Carter as the leading expert on the riots outside New York’s Stonewall Inn in June 1969.

The Stonewall Uprising is commonly credited as being the spark that ignited the modern-day gay-rights movement, which initially focused on gay men and lesbians before becoming inclusive of bisexual and transgender people.

Carter’s book formed for the basis for the PBS film Stonewall Uprising, which won a Peabody Award, and he also played a critical role in getting the Stonewall Inn and surrounding streets designated as a national monument and historic landmark.

In 2009, Carter said: “The riots are important only because they gave birth to the gay liberation movement, just as the fall of the Bastille is only important because it led to the French Revolution.”

Born in Jesup, Georgia, Carter became involved in LGBT+ activism in the 1960s as a student in Wisconsin.

He moved to New York in 1985, where he worked as a writer – as well as his book on Stonewall, he edited a collection of letters by poet Allen Ginsberg.

At the time of his death, he was working as a technical writer for medical publications and also, since 2006, on a biography of Frank Kameny.

Kameny was a pioneering gay rights activist who was instrumental in getting homosexuality removed as a mental illness in the American Psychiatric Association manual.

Bill Carter said that once it’s safe to travel, he intends to go to New York to retrieve his brother’s work on Kameny, which he’ll hand over to another researcher or a library.

He added that his brother will be buried in Georgia, but a memorial will be held for him in New York.

In a 2019 speech at the LGBTQ Institute at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, David Carter said that modern-day LGBT+ activists could learn alot from their Stonewall predecessors, who had always incorporated humour into their campaigns.

“We have to be careful not to be self-righteous, not to be judgmental,” he said.

“We need to use a little more tact, a little more kindness, a little more sensitivity.”

 

 


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