Alice Paul, American feminist and women’s rights activist, shakes the hand of “youngest Colorado feminist” Mildred Bryan.
In the 1920’s Harlem was a bustling neighborhood and hubspot for African American artistic excellence. It was home to writers, philosophers, actors, musicians, and the like who all helped contribute to an era of great growth for African American art, literature, and culture.
During this time, Harlem was often welcoming for LGBT people and they formed a community, hanging out at famous spots like Connie’s Inn and the lavish parties held in the home of A’Lelia Walker.
In celebration of Pride Month this Five You Should Know post identifies black cultural icons of the Harlem Renaissance who identified as LGBT, both publicly and privately.
A literary genius, James Baldwin explored the themes of race, sexuality, and class in his writing. A staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Baldwin moved abroad in his early twenties to distance himself from American prejudice and would spend most of his life living away from the United States. One of his most famous works, “The Fire Next Time” is still used to illustrate and facilitate discussion around race today.
A celebrated writer and activist, Baldwin also maintained close relationships with other literary heavyweights like Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, and Maya Angelou.
More on Baldwin’s life and legacy in this New York Times Obituary.
Bessie Smith started her blues career singing on the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit that catered to African American audiences and performers. Her powerful voice caught the attention of Clarence Williams, a popular composer during the 1920s. Smith recorded her first single, “Down-hearted Blues” with Williams and became the most successful vaudeville blues singer of her time. She would go on to record with other jazz instrumentalists including: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Tommy Ladnier, and James P. Johnson.
Smith along with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, and Gladys Bentley defied the common gender stereotypes of the times and they often sang lyrics hinting at their love for other women, although Bentley is the only one to have publicly confirmed her sexuality.
Listen to Smith’s voice.
Mabel Hampton was a writer, activist, and former dancer. She moved to New York City in her early twenties and first worked as a domestic.
Hampton was heavily involved in theater, dancing in cabarets like the Garden of Joy and even appeared in several all-black productions at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. In the early 1920’s Hampton was arrested on trumped up prostitution charges and was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Reform School for Women.
Listen as Hampton discusses being “in the life” during the 1920’s in Harlem.
Richard Bruce Nugent was born and raised in Washington, DC to a family in DC’s high black society. He eventually met and befriend Langston Hughes at Georgia Douglas Johnson’s famous artistic salon and the two would go on to publish, Fire!!, a black revolutionary literary magazine. They later became prominent members of the Harlem Renaissance scene. Since Nugent was openly gay, he would draw and write under the pseudonym “Richard Bruce” to avoid igniting the disapproval of his family,
His most famous work, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” was the first published African American literary work to feature a prominent gay theme.
Gladys Bentley began her blues career singing at rent parties and buffet flats in Harlem, New York. As her popularity grew, she began performing at Harry Hansberry’s Clam House, a notorious speakeasy in “Jungle Alley” that was frequented by LGBT people during the 1920s.
Openly lesbian, Bentley wore men’s formal wear during many of her performances and her powerful voice was backed by men dressed in drag. She would later denounce her lesbianism during the McCarthy era in a now famous piece published in Ebony Magazine entitled “I Am Woman Again.”
Post compiled by Lanae S., Digital Content Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
June 28, 1969: Police Raid the Stonewall Inn
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. That night, the street erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations that lasted for the next three days.
The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
In 2011, American Experience released the film “The Stonewall Uprising.”
Today, on the 44th anniversary, we invite you to:
• Explore the milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement
• View photos of the Stonewall Uprising
• Watch the full film The Stonewall Uprising (Run time: 01:22:03)
Anonymous said: Do you think that being an American 'PoC' you have the right to appropriate Asian and other non-white cultures you do not belong to? Do you believe that being an American 'PoC' means that you do not benefit from US imperialism abroad?
This is a purposefully leading question, but I’ll bite:
No one group has the “right” to appropriate anything. That’s why it’s called appropriation.
However, benefitting from American Imperialism is not the same as there being no horizontal prejudices whatsoever, no racism, or no other impacting issues. You can benefit from American Imperialism and still deal with racism.
Someone mentioned this on BlackinAsia (now Owning-my-truth)
solutionsbecomeproblems: I think it’s important not to conflate Western Privilege (diplomatic immunity, int’l access in passport transactions, global resources) with White Privilege (social mobility, economic access, education). Although, a LARGE sum of the former definitely reinforces the latter in non-“West”ern settings… and when it comes to POCs being alternately raised in both East and West (like me), it’s a bit difficult to maintain my “Western Privilege” because I’m brown. Does that make sense…
They’re two similar but different things, meaning you can benefit from being an American but still deal with oppression for other reasons. They don’t cancel each other out.
Anonymous said: you should change your url to ushistory-whiteguys
Nah, I like it the way it is. :)
Anonymous said: This is the person who'd asked you a question about a post I couldn't find, about something that was in SoCal, about immigrants from Punjab marrying Mexican women. I just wanted to say that I did finally find it.
Congrats! If you’d care to share the title, we’d all appreciate it!
This list is a quick one of resources, opportunities, internships, programs, and college tours for students (in the US) — mostly students of color, but also sometimes first gen or low-income students.
historicity-was-already-taken said: I love you
We’re clearly in a committed blogship.
June 18, 1983: Sally Ride Becomes the First American Woman in Space
On this day in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She was a mission specialist aboard the Challenger. She rode the space shuttle Challenger into orbit in 1983, but she was also a NASA adviser, a lifelong educator, and a founder of Sally Ride Science, a venture dedicated to inspiring and teaching young people, especially girls, about science and space.
Watch an NOVA’s uncut interview with the late astronaut, conducted at NASA in 1984.
Sally Ride is also the first Lesbian Astronaut in space, and is survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years. Tam and Sally met as children at the age of 12, and began to date in 1985. Sally’s sister, Bear, confirmed that her sister was a lesbian who had chosen not to announce her sexuality publicly because she was a “private person”. However, most who knew Sally or Tam were aware of their relationship, and Tam is considered to be part of the Ride family.
Tam also made significant contributions to Sally Ride’s science and educational work, working for Sally’s “Sally Ride Science” to continue the legacy of the first American Woman in Space.
An official statement from Sally Ride Science named O’Shaughnessy as the 61-year-old Ride’s partner of 27 years. She is also identified in a short bio on Sally Ride Science’s official website simply as the company’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for Content.
"She oversees the development of Sally Ride Science’s classroom books, teacher guides, and educator institutes," the bio also notes. “In addition, Dr. O’Shaughnessy is the author of 9 science books for children, including ‘Our Changing Climate: Ecosystems’ and ‘The Third Planet’ (co-authored with Sally Ride), which won the American Institute of Physics Children’s Science Writing Award.
alliecat-person said: As someone who is a year away from a PhD I'm quite happy to discuss history with anyone who is open to it. But what galls me about mpoc is that they end up saying that academic expertise--which many of us have spent years acquiring--means nothing, all while claiming expertise for themselves on a wide array of subjects. Apparently their manner of acquiring expertise is valid, while those of us who have passed exams, presented our work, etc., are just part of repressive, monolithic academia.
The problem itself is of course, broader than you, or I, or MPOC, but it illustrates some of the current issues rather well. The example of MPOC copying the wikipedia bibliography for muslims in Spain to back their claim that Queen Urraca was a perfect example. You don’t need any training to copy something from wikipedia — but of course, a lot of what they copy is from academics — it is part of that system.
Same with the databases they use - none of the research is original (and it doesn’t have to be! That’d be far too much work for a hobby) but at the same time, those were all created and researched by academics.
So the first problem is — academia has terrible PR. It’s associated with class, racial divides, capitalistic loans, and really boring and dry material. And these things are true. Some of the stuff that comes out is dreadfully dull or dense and hard to read and nothing makes those parts less boring or less complex, you just learn to handle those things better.
But you can’t claim everything is the ivory tower, or that everyone is part of a repressive hierarchy. I tell my friends it’s the bell hooks effect on tumblr — people like radical discourse when it says what they want to say, when they believe that those people are backing up things they believe, and when a punchy quote catches their eye — but if they think something is complex or elitist they disregard it as only for the ivory tower. But bell hooks is an academic, bell hooks is a PhD and a professor, and is a great feminist theorist. Even if bell hooks’s place in academia has been to challenge it, she is a part of that process. The bell hooks popular among people who spurn academia and elitist language is the same bell hooks who writes about feminist theory and teaches classes at a university.
It can be jarring for me to be accused of things regarding my education as if I had everything handed to me. I worked hard to be the first in my mother’s family to earn a BA. I had two jobs. I paid for school mostly myself with loans. I had a pell grant. I spent my first year in college in the TRIO government program for first gen and low income students. (Had I stayed at that university, I would have pursued the McNair Program for POC students). I applied to colleges mostly through fee waivers, and only visited the universities that paid to fly me out for diversity recruitment because my mother had no money, and we were going to lose our house.
You don’t accidentally end up a biracial/mexican woman who gets into graduate school. You make a conscious choice to fight tooth and nail against your circumstances, to succeed academically and personally, and pray someone will fund you once you get in. So I got asked “should history be kept only to people with the power and resources to get a degree?” and that I think, shocked me. I’ve spent most of my undergraduate career A.) struggling to pay for it with debt and B.) convincing people to take a chance on my abilities and C.) working for non-profits and public institutions because like most scholars, I’m not in this field for money. If I wanted to play keepaway, I’d get an MBA.
This goes back to PR — we’re not all people who are fundamentally good at being concise, and learning the language and diction of our disciplines sometimes complicates what we’re saying. People believe they aren’t welcome in those spaces or have a fear of feeling stupid — and we don’t always clear that up properly. We also don’t always tell people that most of us find the freedom of information and knowledge to be a fundamental part of democracy.
However, it’s easier and easier to access the “languages” if you will — to look up terms on wikipedia, on the plain english wiki, to google something and find answers, and to ask people to “translate”. No one knows everything.
Neither side will succeed if we blame those who beat stacked odds against them to get a degree, or demean those who can’t, didn’t, or chose not to.