To celebrate PRIDE month, we want to highlight ten Black icons that are in the LGBTQ+ community that have significantly shaped our society. 

Alvin Ailey

Ailey is a dancer, director, choreographer, and activist. Ailey heavily influenced modern dance, which awarded him numerous prestigious awards. Ailey is best known for establishing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT). The AAADT’s mission is to offer programs for underserved black communities. In addition to his work with AAADT, he became an icon in the LGBTQ+ community for being an openly gay man and talented dancer.

James Baldwin

There is no introduction needed. Baldwin is a legendary author, poet, philosopher, playwright, and activist. Baldwin dedicated his life to fight against racism and homophobia. Some of his most notable work is Go Tell It on the Mountain,Giovanni’s RoomThe Fire Next Time, and Notes of a Native Man. His beautiful writing and speech inspired many and still resonates to this day.  

Countee Cullen

Cullen is a poet that is best known for his contribution to the Harlem Renaissance. Some of his most famous poems were about reclaiming African arts. A few notable poems are, “Heritage,” “Copper Sun,” and “The Ballad of the Brown Girl.”

Tarell Alvin McCraney

McCraney is an American playwright and is the chair of playwrighting at the at the Yale School of Drama. His most recognized play is In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, which was adapted in a film that won Best Picture in 2017. The play dealt with Black masculinity and homosexuality; the play was also autobiographical.

Audre Lorde

Lorde is an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist that has described herself as, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” She dedicated her life to fight against injustice. A few notable poems are “Coal,” Power,” and “Who Said It Was Simple.”

Bayard Rustin

Rustin worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and organized much of the civil rights movement. He assisted in organizing the March on Washington, the New York City school boycott, and many other protests that were against political injustice. As an openly gay man during a time of intense homophobia, Rustin actively fought for gay rights. In 1986, he gave a speech “The New N****** Are Gays” to insight social change. He also testified on behalf of New York for the Gay Rights Bill.

Marsha P. Johnson

Johnson is known as an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and was one of the first to throw a brick in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. Johnson is a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) that was a groundbreaking organization.

Elle Hearns

Hearns is a Black, transgender woman that is co-founder of the Black Lives Matter network in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin. She is currently the Executive Director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute that advocates for Black transgender women and fights to end violence against all trans people. To find more information, visit her website

Josephine Baker

Baker is a French ententainer that made headlines as the first mixed race women in a film. Baker coined the names “Black Venus,” the “Black Pearl,” “Bronze Venus,” and the “Creole Goddess.” Baker also aided in the French Resistance during WWII and was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military. She was named Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General Charles de Gaulle. Baker also participated in the Civil Rights Movement in the US and refused to perform for segregated audiences. Baker identified as a bisexual woman, and famously had an affair with Frida Kahlo.


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