8 Inspiring Queer Black Icons You Should Know About

George Johnson

In honor of the start of Black History Month, here are 8 queer African-Americans that have paved the way for so many people.

Bayard Rustin

A master strategist and tireless activist, Bayard Rustin is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest non-violent protests ever held in the US.  In an era of #BlackLivesMatter, it is imperative that we know as modern day freedom fighters, those who led the march before us.

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Audre Lorde

A Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. One of her most notable efforts was her activist work with Afro-German women in the '80s. She spoke on issues surrounding civil rights, feminism, and oppression. Her work gained both wide acclaim and wide criticism, due to the elements of social liberalism and sexuality presented in her work and her emphasis on revolution and change.

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James Baldwin 

An American novelist, essayist, playwright poet and social critic. Many of his works spoke to the intricacies of race, sex, and class distinctions of a black man living in white America. His writing not only touched on the pressures faced by black men, but further expounded on that also felt by gay and bisexual, years prior to gay equality being espoused in America.

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Angela Davis

An American political activist, scholar, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the '60s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, although she was never a party member. Her interests included prisoner rights; she founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex.

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The true "Queen of Disco" with a falsetto that could reach the high heavens.  Praised for his vocal abilities, he was a true entertainer with a flamboyant, androgynous appearance that took the disco era by force.  He will always be remembered as a major activist during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late '80s.

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Josephine Baker

An American-born French dancer, singer, and actress who came to be known in various circles as the "Black Pearl," "Bronze Venus," and even the "Creole Goddess." Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine later became a citizen of France in 1937. She was fluent in both English and French.  Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934), or to become a world-famous entertainer.

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Alvin Ailey

An African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York City.  He is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation. His company gained the nickname "Cultural Ambassador to the World" because of its extensive international touring schedule.

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Langston Hughes

He was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist.  He was best known for being the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes always pushed for younger black writers to be objective about their race, but not to scorn it or flee from it.  Langston’s attitude was that he was a Negro black writer, not the Negro black writer. He never stopped thinking about others.

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The work of these 8 amazing people in various efforts have transcended time and are more relevant today than ever.  Let's honor them as icons who will never be forgotten for what their work did then, now, and in the future!

Tags: #Activism, #LGBT

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