GSA Network Blog

Black LGBTQ Unsung Heroes

Like many people, I thought I knew all that happened during the Civil Rights Movement. I mean, I went to a school named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Experimental Laboratory School from kindergarten through eighth grade! I was taught about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a tiny bit about Malcolm X. I thought I knew it all!

When I went to college, I started learning about Bayard Rustin, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and countless others who made huge contributions to the movement. Who were these people? Why were they not mentioned in my grade school classes? Is it because they were gay and lesbian? Why, as a black student, am I not learning my own history?

"We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers." -Bayard Rustin

To learn more, I watched “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”. I was very inspired by his life and the film, so I started researching more of his story. He was a non-violent activist who worked behind the scenes to create the non-violent Civil Rights Movement through the mentorship of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1963, Bayard Rustin, along with A. Philip Randolph, organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Due to Rustin being openly gay, the NAACP chairman did not want Rustin to be credited for organizing the march. After the success of the March on Washington, Rustin went on to organize The New York City School Boycott, write as a columnist for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) newspaper, and  create change for many other Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues.

After learning so much about Bayard Rustin, I was still eager to learn more. I, along with Geoffrey (GSA Network staff), began to compile information about Black LGBTQ figures in history so that the students of today don’t have to read the watered down version of their history. We encourage you to stand up, TAKE ACTION and partner with other school clubs and organizations, such as Black Student Clubs. Join together to fight larger oppressions and highlight the missing heroes of school textbooks! GSA Network encourages you to support the FAIR Education Act in California, which ensures educational curriculum is LGBTQ inclusive. As Bayard Rustin said, “We are all one. And if we don't know it, we will learn it the hard way."

Take Action!

Below we have compiled resource links for everyone to use at their schools and within their communities.

  • BlackedOUT History
    GSA Network's online resource of Black LGBTQ historical figures.
  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
    Visit Youth In Motion/Frameline to register your California GSA and receive free DVDs, including Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.
  • Equality Forum's GLBT History Month
    An online resource with videos, biographies and printable PDF documents of some of these historical figures.
  • FAIR Education Act
    The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, SB 48, would ensure that LGBT people are included in instructional materials, which studies have shown is linked to greater student safety and lower rates of bullying. The FAIR Education Act would require that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are included and recognized for their important historical contributions to the economic, political, and social development of California.
  • Coalition Building
    Gay-Straight Alliance clubs have the power to fight homophobia and transphobia, as well as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and other oppressions. Coalition building is when separate groups join forces to focus on one main issue.
  • Building Anti-Racist GSAs
    Multi-issue organizing is a strong and powerful way to incorporate all aspects of a community and the people it is made up of. The LGBTQ youth movement cannot survive unless it includes people of color and addresses issues of sexism, racism, classism, ageism, and environmental injustice. We must link ourselves together to create a multi issue social justice movement which incorporates the needs and rights of multiple communities.


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