The Jewel Box Revue was America’s first and most famous racially integrated drag revue. The first shows began in 1939 and Jewel Box remained a successful traveling production well into the late 1960s despite decades of deeply ingrained homophobia and racial segregation in America. The revue was popular with the black theater circuit, attracting mixed mainstream audiences, and was a headline act at the famed Apollo Theater in New York City. The show was billed as having “25 Men and 1 Girl” with the one girl being drag king Storme DeLarverie, probably the most successful male impersonator/drag king of her day and a prized performer at Manhattan’s infamous Club 82.
But it was not until the night of June 27, 1969, that Storme DeLarverie’s name would become legend in the gay community. On that night, Storme heroically punched out a cop and became one of the first to fight back against the police as they raided the Stonewall Inn; sparking a riot and igniting the modern gay rights movement. (Photos: Jan Britton and Storme DeLarverie, mid-1950s, DeLarverie promotional pictures for JBR, and JBR at The Apollo)