Stonewall Library began in 1973 as the brainchild of Mark Silber who was a student at Florida Atlantic University. He traveled widely and collected as many books as possible, storing them at the family home in Hollywood, Florida. The name “Stonewall” was chosen to honor the significance of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City in the early years of the modern gay movement.
Silber moved to New York in 1984 and the collection had grown too large to move so Silber organized his friends into a corporation which would grant borrowing privileges to members and conduct regular meetings.
The collection was first moved to the Metropolitan Community Church, giving the collection a permanent home. From 1987 to 1994 the library grew and eventually filed as a tax-exempt status. Joel Starkey had been collecting periodicals, correspondence, and other materials he called “The Southern Archives." When he became ill and offered his collection to the library, the corporation reorganized as Stonewall Library & Archives , Inc. and in 1990 , the IRS granted the new combined 401 status, making all contributions tax deductible.
When Dr. John C. Graves began his tenure on the Board of Directors in 1994, he made fund-raising a top priority for the Library. In 1997 Stonewall rented space from the Gay and Lesbian Community in Ft. Lauderdale.
In the following three years, Stonewall grew not only in numbers of books and archives, but in accessibility and diversity of programming. In May of 2000 Stonewall moved to 1717 North Andrews Avenue in Ft. Lauderdale as a tenant of the GLCCSF.
In its new location the entire collection including the archives was first housed under one roof. Patrons could also enjoy a new reading room named after Dr. John C. Graves, where they could peruse national LGBT periodicals and hold meetings and discussion groups. Historians and other scholars could pursue more serious research in the new organized archives.
In 2005 Stonewall began an annual series of history exhibitions shown at the Broward Main Library. These groundbreaking exhibitions were “The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals – 1933-1945," “Pride: Party of Protest," “Days without Sunshine: Anita Bryant’s Anti-Gay Crusade," “Out of the Shadows: Gay American from Kinsey to Stonewall” and “Stonewall: The Ending of the Beginning of Gay Liberation."
By the end of 2006 Stonewall’s programming had expanded to include a Distinguished Author Lecture Series, literature discussion groups, an opera appreciation group, two monthly film programs, a writer’s workshop, monthly art exhibitions, and a community space that generated over eight thousand visitors a year. Also in 2006 through a generous grant from the John C. Graves Trust of the Community Foundation of Broward, Stonewall hired its first full-time professional Executive Director.
The Andrews Avenue building was sold to developers in 2006 and Stonewall immediately began to look for a new home. At the same time, it launched a $1 Million capital building and endowment campaign. The Stonewall National Museum & Archives is now located in the Ft. Lauderdale Branch Library/ArtServe building located at 1300 East Sunrise in a 4,000-square foot area of collection, exhibition, public program and administration space. It officially opened in January 2009.
The Stonewall Museum is one of the only permanent spaces in the United States devoted to the display of exhibitions relating to LGBT culture and history.