FROM THE ARCHIVE: SF Pride Parade in the 1970s, through the years

ByJustin Mendoza, Brandon Behle KGO logo
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
ARCHIVE: SF Pride Parade in the 1970s, through the years
In honor of pride, we take a look back at our ABC7 archive and showcase some memorable moments of the San Francisco Pride Parade.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It all began on June 27, 1970. Thirty people marched down Polk street as part of the San Francisco Gay Liberation March, according to Mark Sawchuk from the GLBT Historical Society Museum in San Francisco.

Fast forward several decades later, crowds have grown from thousands to more than a million participants parading down Market Street every year --- at least until the COVID-19 pandemic. And went virtual.

Now back to 1970, it was a two day event that June weekend.

MORE: Here's how to watch 2023 San Francisco Pride Parade on ABC7

Sawchuk says there was a picnic "gay-in" gathering in Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadows.

We found TONS of footage in our ABC7 News archive dating back to the 1972 parade when it was called Christopher Street West.

Sawchuk says the title references the street in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood where Stonewall and other establishments catered to LGBTQ people.

Since the parade's inception 51 years ago, the parade has gone through several name changes.

MORE: Original rainbow flag returns home to SF, displayed at GLBT Historical Society

1973 -1980: Gay Freedom Day

1981 - 1994: International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade

1995 - 2013: San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration

2014- to present: San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration

MORE: San Francisco International Airport opens terminal honoring Harvey Milk

Of course, the parade is now simply referred to as "San Francisco Pride."

WATCH: LOOKBACK: What gay life was like in San Francisco in 1976

It was a time before the rainbow flag, before the White Night riots and before HIV and AIDS devastated a community. This ABC7 special report, shown in its entirety, gives a glimpse into what gay life was like in San Francisco in 1976.

Throughout the years, contingents in the parade took a stance for freedom of speech, fighting for equal rights and more funding for AIDS research. And celebrating same-sex marriage.

Politicians and LGBTQ+ icons have made an appearance.

MORE: Bay Area LGBTQ+ community talks importance of gender identity terminology

Future California Governor Gavin Newsom, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former San Francisco mayors Willie Brown and Art Agnos, Warriors President Rick Welts, and the late Harvey Milk, Mayor Ed Lee and rainbow creator Gilbert Baker ---each took the time to greet our ABC7 News photographer on the parade route.

Grand Marshals have included Iraq war veteran Eric Alva, pop-singing legend Cyndi Lauper and LGBTQ rights activist Candace Gingrich.

In honor of pride weekend, this edition of "From The Archive" explores the evolution of the San Francisco Pride Parade.

Watch the media player above.

You can watch more stories from KGO-TV's archive on the "ABC7 Bay Area" app on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Android TV in the "From The Archive" section.

Former ABC7 News reporters Don Sanchez, Laura Anthony, Jim Weider, Sergio Quintana, Caroline Yu and Alan Wang have contributed to stories seen in this piece.