Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation

by Robert W. Fieseler


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An essential work of American civil rights history, Tinderbox mesmerizingly reconstructs the 1973 fire that devastated New Orleans’ subterranean gay community.

Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement. In revelatory detail, Robert W. Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue- collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno that destroyed an entire community. The aftermath was no less traumatic—families ashamed to claim loved ones, the Catholic Church refusing proper burial rights, the city impervious to the survivors’ needs—revealing a world of toxic prejudice that thrived well past Stonewall. Yet the impassioned activism that followed proved essential to the emergence of a fledgling gay movement. Tinderbox restores honor to a forgotten generation of civil-rights martyrs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631495953
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 250,487
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Robert W. Fieseler is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship and the Lynton Fellowship in Book Writing. A writer for Buzzfeed, Narratively,
and elsewhere, he currently resides in New

Table of Contents

Historical Figures xiii

Preface xvii

Introduction: History Reclaimed xxiii

Act I Fire

1 Brotherhood of Men 3

2 Sunday Service 20

3 Gay Liberation 39

4 United We Stand 58

Act II Fallout

5 Mayhem 85

6 Call for Aid 99

7 Liberation Descends 117

8 Visions 139

9 Fun House 148

10 Firetraps 157

11 In Memoriam 168

Act III Legacy

12 Deliverance 177

13 Downfall 200

14 Rally Forth 221

15 Last Resort 234

Coda: Second Line 244

Notes 255

Acknowledgments 315

About the Research 319

Illustration Credits 321

Index 323

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