David Carter, who died last Friday, is seen here in a photo from June 28, 2019, when he spoke at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. BO EMERSON/BEMERSON@AJC.COM

David Carter, chronicler of the Stonewall uprising, leaves a historic legacy

David Carter, a native of Jesup, Ga., but a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, wrote the definitive history of the Stonewall uprising, documenting a turning point in the story of gay and lesbian rights in the U.S.

Carter died suddenly Friday morning, after texting a friend to call 911, his brother, William Carter, said.

He was 67. The cause of death was unknown, but the brother suggested it might have been a heart attack.

David Carter spoke at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights last year on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall demonstrations, and discussed his book, “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.”

Growing up in sheltered Jesup, Ga., Carter was highly motivated in school, winning a National Science Foundation grant to study at the University of Georgia while he was a junior in high school.

He graduated from Emory University and earned a masters degree at the University of Wisconsin. In Madison he became an activist, fighting local clergy who were trying to overturn a Wisconsin law that prohibited discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Carter moved to New York in 1985. He was working as a technical writer for medical publications at the time of his death, but pursued other projects on his own time.

He edited a collection of poet Allan Ginsberg’s letters, which was published as “Spontaneous Mind,” in 2001, with a preface by Vàclav Havel.

 His “Stonewall” book was published in 2004. The book also became the basis for the PBS American Experience documentary “Stonewall Uprising.”

Carter’s research was instrumental in the campaign to have the Stonewall site, in Greenwich Village, included in the National Register of Historic Places and listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Since 2006 Carter had been working on a biography of Frank Kameny, the pioneering gay activist who had a hand in convincing the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its manual of mental disorders.

David Carter was a visiting professor at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, in the fall term of 2016. CONTRIBUTED: LYNN CARTER

The Kameny biography  remains incomplete. Older brother William Carter said he hopes to travel to New York, when it is safe, to secure his brother’s research and turn it over to a researcher, a school or library.

Ryan Roemerman, executive director of the LGBTQ Institute at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, said Carter has “shed light on the key stories that have shaped the movement.”

Said Roemerman, “We are very grateful for what he has done to make our history real.”

William Carter said the Carter Funeral Home in Jesup, owned by their cousins, will fly David’s body back to Georgia where he will be buried in a family plot next to their parents.

The older brother said memorial services, both in Georgia and in New York City, will have to wait until people can safely gather again.

When David Carter spoke at the rights center last year, he suggested that contemporary activists could learn much from the protestors at Stonewall, who incorporated humor and style in their demonstrations. 

“We have to be careful not to be self-righteous, not to be judgmental,” he told his audience. “We need to use a little more tact, a little more kindness, a little more sensitivity.” 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

X