TIME -- The gay rights movement was already taking inspiration from African-Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s, explains Marc Stein, a History professor at San Francisco State University and author of The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History. “What better way to say ‘we too matter and we too can revolt’” than by embracing the language that was being used to describe their profound discontent? That word and its fiery undertones also ran counter to the stereotype that LGBT people were effeminate and ashamed, too weak and too unwilling to resist.
“All of that made the word riot distinctly attractive,” Stein says. But, over the ensuing decades — as that term lost some of the proud patina it carried in a time defined by anti-war protests, radical feminism and Black power — that would change.