White Night Riots, San Francisco, 1979, by Daniel Nicoletta, as reproduced in Art & Queer Culture

The riot that made it into Art & Queer Culture

No, this isn’t about the Stone Wall Tavern. Our book looks back at the 40th anniversary of the White Night Riots

Harvey Milk ran a camera store on Castro Street in San Francisco, before he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States.

His appointment was tragically brief, yet his earlier job meant that the violent end to his career was captured for posterity.

In 1978 Milk and San Francisco’s Mayor, George Moscone, were assassinated at city hall by Dan White, a conservative politician increasingly enraged by Milk’s visibility, explains our newly updated edition of Art & Queer Culture. “White received an absurdly light sentence for ‘voluntary manslaughter’ (rather than double murder). The rage of the gay and lesbian community fuelled the so-called White Night Riots, in which police cars were torched and City Hall was trashed."

Milk’s former employee and friend Daniel Nicoletta was on hand as both a protestor and a photographer. This memorable shot captures a group of protestors silhouetted against the backdrop of city hall on the night of the riots.


Art & Queer Culture
Art & Queer Culture

Nicoletta’s sharp, reportage-style shots bring those events back with remarkable clarity today, 21 May, exactly 40 years on from the trial and the riots it prompted, and will be equally evocative, tomorrow, on Milk’s birthday. If he had lived, Milk would be turning 89 this Wednesday.

For more on art, history and homosexuality order a copy of Art & Queer Culture here. Beautifully illustrated and clearly written, this second edition has been updated to include art and visual culture of the current moment, as well as classic images, such as Nicoletta's shots.