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Famous Black People In History Names
In honor of Black History Month, it’s important to learn more about the Black LGBTQ+ people who paved the way. Here’s a list of 10 Black influencers who made a significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community during a time when living as an openly gay or transgender person was no easy task. We must remember their legacy as we continue anti-racist work for a bolder, bolder future.
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James Baldwin was a writer, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist. His writings explored and illuminated the subtleties of race, gender, and class in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. He is best known for his novel Giovanni’s Room, which discusses the complexities of homosexuality and bisexuality. It attracted the attention of literary critics in its time because it featured all white characters, unlike his other novels, which focused on the experiences of black people during the civil rights era. James has spent much of his literary and activist career educating others about black experiences and identity. He was truly a pioneer of his time. James’s poems and essays are still used today to help educate and expand our community’s knowledge of the black gay experience in the mid-twentieth century.
Marsha P. Johnson was a liberation activist, self-proclaimed drag queen, performer, and survivor. Marsha truly was a person ahead of her time. Her middle “P” stood for “Never mind,” which is what Marsha said in response to questions about her gender. She was an outspoken transgender rights activist and one of the central figures in the historic 1969 Stonewall uprising. Marsha worked closely with her friend Sylvia Rivera in the fight for transgender rights, and together they formed the radical organization Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR). a political organization that provided housing and other forms of support to homeless gay youth and sex workers in Manhattan. She was tragically found dead on July 6, 1992 at the age of 46. Her life has been described in numerous books, documentaries and films. She is truly one of the bravest trailblazers in the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. Her legacy lives on through the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, whose mission is to advance the rights of Black transgender people.
Audre Lorde was a writer, feminist, women’s activist, librarian, and civil rights activist. She was a self-described “black lesbian, mother, warrior and poet.” Through her teaching and writing, Audre has made highly important and influential contributions to the fields of feminist theory, critical race studies, and queer theory. Her work has focused on addressing and countering the injustices of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism and homophobia. Some of her best known works include The Black Unicorn, The Cancer Journals, Coal, and Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Along with her well-known writing, her poetry was renowned in the community for its emotional expression and technical skill. Audre expressed anger and outrage at the civil and social injustices she has witnessed throughout her life. “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who have no voice, because they were so afraid, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We were taught that silence would save us, but it doesn’t,” Lord once said.
Willie Ninja was a dancer, choreographer and the “grandfather of fashion.” Willie is best known for his appearance in the documentary film Paris is Burning. The award-winning 1990 documentary explores the Harlem drag ball culture, which provided a space for black and Latino youth to express nonconforming gender ideas. Willie Ninja founded Ninja House in 1982 as the mother of a group of adopted young gay and transgender people in New York City. Willie helped create and shape the mod dance form, which combined exaggerated poses of models and complex choreography reminiscent of pantomime. After appearing in the documentary Paris Is Burning, Willie rose to fame as a choreographer, musician, model and modeling coach, and became a direct source of inspiration for various artists who immortalized the style in their music videos. The life of Willie Ninja illustrates what it means to be a black gay man in a world that celebrates white male heteronormativity. His legacy continues as members of House of Ninja continue to be active in fashion and advocate on behalf of their mother for HIV/AIDS awareness.
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Storme DeLarverie was an entertainer, a drag king, and a caretaker and caretaker of the LGBTQ+ community. Storme grew up in New Orleans and joined the Ringling Bros. Circus as a teenager, where she rode galloping horses. Storme later toured Black theaters as host—and sole drag king—for the Jewel Box Revue, the first racially integrated drag revue in the United States. Storme was known as a butch lesbian whose fight with the police was (according to Storme and many eyewitnesses) the spark that ignited the Stonewall riots, galvanizing the crowd into action. She worked as a bouncer in several lesbian bars in New York City and held leadership positions in the Stonewall Veterans Association. Storme was a well-known advocate for LGBTQ+ people and would later be called the “Lesbian Champion of the Village” as she served the community as a volunteer patrol officer. In addition to her incredible contributions to the LGBTQ+ community, Storme has also organized and performed at fundraising events for women and children affected by domestic violence. Storme was a model steward of our community and beyond.
Gladys Bentley was a blues singer, pianist, and gender fluid performer during the Harlem Renaissance. Her career took off when she appeared in Harry Hansberry’s Clam House in New York in the 1920s as a cross-dressing black lesbian. She also headlined the Ubangi Club in Harlem in the early 1930s, where she was supported by a choir of drag queens. She dressed in men’s clothing (including her signature tuxedo and top hat), played the piano, and sang her own lewd lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting with the women in the audience. For most of her life, Gladys was criticized for wearing “men’s clothes,” but she continued to be brave and paved the way for many LGBTQ+ people for decades to come. According to a 2019 New York Times article, Gladys was “Harlem’s most famous lesbian” in the 1930s and one of the most famous black entertainers in the United States.
Bayard Rustin was a leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Bayard was best known as a key advisor to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Bayard worked with A. Philip Randolph in the March on Washington movement in 1941 to end racial discrimination in employment. Bayard later organized the Freedom Rides and helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and teach King about nonviolence; He later organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He has served as a leader in such organizations as Citizenship Crusade, In Friendship, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Bayard dedicated his life to activism, and in 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Ernestine Eckstein helped lead the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States in the 1960s. She was the leader of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States. She attended Annual Reminder vigils and was often one of the few women—and the only black woman—present at early protests for LGBTQ+ rights. Her insight and work in the Civil Rights Movement provided valuable experience in public protest to the lesbian and gay movement. Ernestine worked among influential activists such as Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Barbara Gittings, Franklin Kameny and Randy Wicker. In the 1970s, she became involved in the black feminist movement, particularly Black Women Organized for Action (BWOA). According to historians, she saw the fight for civil rights and LGBTQ rights as inextricably linked.
Afro American Encyclopaedia, Or, The Thoughts, Doings, And Sayings Of The Race [electronic Resource]: Embracing Addresses, Lectures, Biographical Sketches, Sermons, Poems, Names Of Universities, Colleges, Seminaries, Newspapers, Books, And A History Of
Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, educator, and politician who was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Barbara Jordan became the first black person elected to the Texas Senate in 1966, and the first woman and first black person elected to Congress from Texas in 1971. She was best known for her powerful opening statement at House Judiciary Committee hearings. during the impeachment trial of Richard Nixon and as the first black woman to give the keynote speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Barbara was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 1994 for her work as a political innovator. Although Barbara has never openly acknowledged her sexual orientation in public, she
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