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Earliest Known Recording of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera Found

Johnson and Rivera

In 1970, just a year after the Stonewall uprising, Liza Cowan was working as a reporter for WBAI, the New York City radio station, when she interviewed the then 19-year-old Sylvia Rivera and 25-year-old Marsha P. Johnson

The two were young at the time, engaged in activism, but not yet the towering icons they're remembered as today.

That's what stood out to Brian Ferree, the archival researcher for the Making Gay History podcast, who discovered the recording in the basement of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. The tape was simply marked "STAR." Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (or STAR) was founded by Rivera and Johnson in 1970 to help house and feed homeless LGBTQ youth.

"It reminded me of how young everyone was then," Ferree says on this week's episode. "I think the Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera that I’ve grown accustomed to, they were older by the time... the film that I’ve seen of them, the video that I’ve seen of them, the recordings that I’ve listened to from them, they had more time under their belt, and this, it was, it was like they were freshly arrived in New York and just letting it all out." 

The interview is believed to be the oldest known recording of Rivera and Johnson, and is available now on Making Gay History, the podcast by Eric Marcus that mines his decades-old audio archive of interviews conducted for his award-winning oral history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. 

You can listen to the 1970 recording of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson below, as well as Making Gay History's two-part 1989 interview with Sylvia Rivera.

(RELATED: Listen to Laverne Cox on The Advocate's LGBTQ&A Podcast)

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