"LGBTQ Black folks have been major contributors to society and social justice movements for hundreds of years! From the famous scientist George Washington Carver to the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey – LGBTQ Black figures have made long-lasting contributions and have had a significant influence on U.S. culture. It is important for GSAs to celebrate the contributions of Black LGBTQ people and to advocate for the visibility of these important historical figures. Recognizing how interconnected our oppressions are makes our movements stronger.
One way GSA clubs do this is by celebrating Black History Month every February. If your school has no Black History Month celebration, organize with your GSA to start an official commemoration at your school. Work with administration and staff, student groups, and others to ensure the lives of LGBTQ Black historical figures are included in your school’s activities.
Here are some helpful ideas of activities you can do at your school during Black History Month:
Teach Your School!
- Create a PowerPoint presentation highlighting important Black LGBTQ leaders and present it to your classes. Make sure to include leaders that are not as well known. You can do your presentations in ALL of your classes because LGBTQ Black folks have made contributions in EVERY subject including music, literature, art, science, health and more.
- Train your social studies and English teachers on Black LGBTQ authors and historical figures and suggest ways they could incorporate them and their biographies into their lessons.
- Work with your school librarian or administration to make sure there is a Black History display board that includes LGBTQ people, as well as books by important authors like Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry.
- Organize with other student clubs, such as the Black Student Union, to make sure the month’s activities include LGBTQ leaders. To learn more about building successful coalitions, see our resource Coalition Building.
- Invite speakers to your school who can talk about LGBTQ Black history.
- Organize discussions on the current events related to LGBTQ Black folks that demonstrate how homophobia, transphobia, and racism affect their lives today.
- Highlight local LGBTQ Black people who have given back to your community.
- Screen a film like Brother Outsider, which documents the life of Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin.
- Organize a poster art campaign or contest featuring LGBTQ Black historical figures. Create a display of pictures and biographies. You can find a list of some of these leaders at our BlackedOUT History page on GSA Network’s website.
- Create an LGBTQ Black History Timeline and display it in your school.
- Use your school’s public announcements to share stories! Play sound clips from legendary blues singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Read poetry from Audre Lorde and Countee Cullen, or read selections of important speeches by Bayard Rustin.
Use Social Media!
- Highlight important figures via your GSA’s social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. Make videos, post photos, tweet, and even make a Facebook or Wiki page for your favorite icon.
- Learn about and celebrate the LGBTQ Black art of voguing! Host a workshop, watch videos online as a group, and research the history of this dance art.
Remember that having one month of commemoration of the lives of LGBTQ Black people is just the beginning! Have ongoing conversations with your GSA about why it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ people of color to society and to social justice movements and why it’s important to build an anti-racist GSA. For more information, see our resource Building Anti Racist GSAs.
Most of all, have fun learning, teaching and celebrating some of our most important LGBTQ leaders and community members in history!
LGBTQ Black Historical Figures
|Name || |
|Alvin Ailey Jr.|| Jan. 5, 1931 |
Dec. 1, 1989
|Choreographer||“I am trying to show the world that we are all human beings and that color is not important. What is important is the quality of our work.”|
|John Amaechi||Nov. 26, 1970||Pro Basketball Player||“I am gay, black, British…and I am now asserting my activism.”|
|James Baldwin|| Aug. 2, 1924 |
Nov. 30, 1987
|Author||"I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."|
|Josephine Baker|| June 3, 1906 |
Apr. 12, 1975
|Singer and Dancer||“Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one's soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”|
|Jean-Michel Basquiat|| Dec. 22, 1960 |
Aug. 12, 1988
|Graffiti Artist||"SAMO© as an end to mindwash religion, nowhere politics, and bogus philosophy"|
|Gladys Bentley||Aug. 12, 1907 |
Jan. 18, 1960
|Octavia Butler||June 22, 1947 |
Feb. 26, 2006
|Author||"People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn't bother me. It's other people doing the calling that bothers me." |
|George Washington Carver||July 12, 1864 |
Jan. 5, 1943
|Scientist||“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”|
|RuPaul Andre Charles||Nov. 17, 1960||Actor, Dancer and TV Show Host||“What other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn’t change what I decide to do. I don’t choose projects so people don’t see me as one thing or another. I choose projects that excite me. I think the problem is that people refuse to understand what drag is outside of their own belief system.”|
|Countee Cullen||May 30, 1903 |
Jan. 9, 1946
|Poet||“My poetry, I think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me.”|
|Lee Daniels||Dec. 24, 1959||Film Director|
|Angela Davis||Jan. 26, 1944||Civil Rights Activist||“Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary's life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.”|
|Ruth Ellis||July 23, 1899 Oct. 5, 2000||Activist||“I never expected I’d be 100 years old. It didn’t even come to my mind.”|
|Sharon Farmer||June 10, 1951||White House Photographer||“Never turn down a chance to show what you can do.”|
|Peter Gomes||May 22, 1942||Theologian||“There can be no light without the darkness out of which it shines.”|
|Mabel Hampton||May 2, 1902 |
Oct. 26, 1989
|Lesbian Pioneer||"I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for eighty-two years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people."|
|Lorraine Hansberry||May 19, 1930 |
Jan. 12, 1965
|Author and Playwright||“All real and lasting change starts first on the inside and works it way through to the outside. Politically speaking, each person being the change we wish to see in the world is the only stance that can make a lasting difference. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”|
|E.Lynn Harris||June 20, 1955 |
July 23, 2009
|Author||“I want people to know they don’t have to live their lives in a permanent ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ existence. Truth is a powerful tool.”|
|Sherry Harris||Feb. 27, 1965||Politician||“All real and lasting change starts first on the inside and works it way through to the outside. Politically speaking, each person being the change we wish to see in the world is the only stance that can make a lasting difference. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”|
|Billie Holiday||Apr. 7, 1915 |
July 17, 1959
|Singer||"A kiss that is never tasted, is forever and ever wasted."|
|Langston Hughes||Feb. 1, 1902 |
May 22, 1967
|Poet||“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly, Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams go, Life is a barren field, Frozen with snow." |
|Zora Neale Hurston||Jan. 7, 1891 |
Jan. 28, 1960
|Author and Folklorist||“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”|
|Bill T. Jones||Feb. 15, 1952||Dancer and Choreographer||"Living and dying is not the big issue. The big issue is what you’re going to do with your time while you are here."|
|Representative Barbara Jordan (D-Texas)||Feb. 21, 1936 |
Jan. 17, 1996
|Politician||"My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."|
|Audre Lorde||Feb. 18, 1934 |
Nov. 17, 1992
|Author||“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”|
|Marsha P. Johnson||1945 |
July 6, 1992
|Transgender Activist and co-founder of S.T.A.R.||When asked what the P stood for in her name, she replied "Pay it No Mind."|
|June Jordan|| |
July 9, 1936
June 14, 2002
|Activist, Poet, Teacher||"Bisexuality means I am free and I am as likely to want to love a woman as I am likely to want to love a man, and what about that? Isn't that what freedom implies?"|
|Miss Major||Unknown||Transgender, Public Health and Prison Activist|
|Gertrude "Ma" Rainey||Apr. 26, 1886 |
Dec. 22, 1939
|Singer||"Went out last night with a crowd of my friends, |
They must have been women, 'cause I don't like no men.
Wear my clothes just like a fan, Talk to gals just like any old man
'Cause they say I do it, ain't nobody caught me, Sure got to prove it on me."
|Bayard Rustin||Mar. 17, 1910 |
Aug. 24, 1987
|Civil Rights Activist||"We are all one. And if we don't know it, we will learn it the hard way."|
|Bessie Smith|| |
|Singer||“It's a long old road, but I know I'm gonna find the end.”|
|Sheryl Swoopes||Mar. 25, 1971||WNBA Player||"No matter how far life pushes you down, no matter how much you hurt, you can always bounce back."|
|Wanda Sykes||Mar. 7, 1964||Comedian||"If you feel like there's something out there that you're supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it."|
|André Leon Talley||Oct. 16,1949||Fashion Editor||“It's not about canceling shows, but initiating things on an individual level. When much is given to you, much is expected. If you're an honest American, you can't wake up and not be affected by the neglect of the government after Katrina. You can't be an honest American and not think about it every day.”|
|Alice Walker||Feb. 9, 1944||Author and Feminist||“The truest and most enduring impulse I have is simply to write.”|
|Phill Wilson||Apr. 29, 1956||AIDS Activist||"The price of the ticket for life is to leave the world in a different place than you found it, to leave the world a better place than you found it."|
|Jacqueline Woodson||Feb. 12, 1963||Author||“I think it's important that everyday we think about the work we need to do to make this world a better place. I mean, we should wake up thinking about it and go to bed thinking about tomorrow's tasks. There's an awful lot of change needing to be made around here.”|
by In Our Own Words Project
1782: Deborah Sampson disguises herself as a male and enlists in the Continental forces under the name of Robert Shurtleff. Sampson’s gender is discovered when she is hospitalized for wounds suffered in battle near Tarrytown, NY. Some historians believe that Deborah Sampson was African American.
1790: George Middleton, leader of The Bucks of America, an all-black Revolutionary War regiment, and Louis Clapion, a French mulatto hairdresser build and live together in the oldest standing house on Beacon Hill, at 5 Pinckney St.
1860: Edmonia Lewis, African American/Native American sculptor, known for her masculine dress, studies and works in Boston. It was in Boston that she meets the group of feminists and artists, headed by actress Charlotte Cushman, with whom she is to live for several years in Rome.
1880: Angelina Weld Grimke, (often confused with her famous aunt, the white abolitionist Angelina Grimke Weld), is born in Boston into a distinguished biracial family. Grimke becomes a teacher and a poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Her love poems are written to women. “…Oh Mamie, if you only knew how my heart beats when I think of you, and it yearns and pants to gaze– if only for one second– upon your lovely face.”
1920: An artistic movement in New York that becomes known as the Harlem Renaissance...
To see a full timeline, visit In Our Own Words by the Metropolitan Community Churches.
- More Black LGBTQ Historical Figures courtesy of the University of Delaware.
- More Black LGBTQ Current and Historical Figures courtesy of AOL.
- Black LGBTQ History Timeline.
- Equality Forum also has a website, called The GLBT History Month, which highlights LGBTQ figures.
- Build coalitions in your school.
- Make your GSA an anti-racist GSA.
- Have a visibility campaign at your school.