This Day in History

June 24, 1973: UpStairs Lounge Massacre

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: LGBTQ

An installation by Skylar Fein called “Remember the Upstairs Lounge.” Click the image to see more from the exhibit.

On Sunday, June 24, 1973, the largest LGBTQ massacre in U.S. history (until the Orlando Massacre) occurred at the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana.

It was the final day of a Pride Weekend celebration, and dozens of people from the Metropolitan Community Church (a gay church founded in the U.S.) went to the Lounge. The attacker coated the stairs with lighter fluid, which made way for an exploding fireball throughout the building and took the lives of 32 people.

As journalist Terry Firma writes,

Homophobia being what it was, several families declined to claim the bodies and one church after another refused to bury or memorialize the dead.

Despite being the deadliest fire in New Orleans history, few news organizations covered the tragedy. Continue reading.

StoryCorps Audio

Reverend Troy Perry recalls the days after the UpStairs Lounge fire and trying to find a church to host a service in this StoryCorps interview.

Also read Slate article “New Evidence Shows That During the 1973 UpStairs Lounge Arson, Gays Had to Take Rescue Efforts Into Their Own Hands.”