Illinois Holocaust Museum to host ‘Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement’

The Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement exhibit coming to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. Photo courtesy of Illinois Holocaust Museum

Opening Oct. 17, Illinois Holocaust Museum will host the exhibit, Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, which explores the June 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn as the flashpoint that ignited the modern gay rights movement in the United States.

In the last 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, America’s LGBTQ population has struggled for equal rights and representation under the law. Rise Up shares those voices and tells the stories of this movement.

Within this exhibition, sponsored by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Trust and the Abe & Ida Cooper Foundation, visitors will be immersed in an journey that weaves together narratives of gay rights history and the ongoing fight for civil rights. Rise Up also examines popular culture’s role in influencing and reflecting attitudes about the LGBTQ community through film, television, sports, and music and explores how the movement harnessed the power of public protest and demonstration to change laws and shatter stereotypes.

“Stonewall was an uprising in 1969 at a gay bar in New York City that propelled forward the modern LGBTQ rights movement,” says Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Arielle Weininger. “Rise Up tells the story of how ordinary Americans used their First Amendment freedoms: freedom of speech, the press, petition, assembly, and religion, to demand an end to discrimination and change society.”

Starting with the Stonewall Inn riots, visitors will travel through time, hitting major points in history and moments for the LGBTQ movement including:

  • The 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials
  • The AIDS crisis
  • Rep. Barney Frank’s public coming out in 1987
  • The efforts for hate crime legislation
  • The implementation and later repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”
  • The fight for marriage equality

Blending historic images and items from the LGBTQ rights movement, the courage and resilience of LGBTQ Americans is displayed through over 80 artifacts in the exhibit, including posters from Harvey Milk’s campaign for public office in San Francisco, an original rainbow flag signed by its creator Gilbert Baker, the gavel Nancy Pelosi used to announce the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and interactive kiosks with information on current LGBTQ rights issues.

VP of Education and Exhibitions Kelley Szany, says, “Rise Up affirms the Museum’s continued commitment to bringing forth exhibitions that address human rights and social justice issues. It creates a space for discussion and gives our visitors the tools they need to ‘take a stand.’”

The exhibit will go from Oct. 17, 2021, to May 8, 2022.