7 black lesbian women for Black History Month
In celebration of Black History Month, Lesbian News looked at seven black lesbian women who made a mark in their respective fields.
These seven women were drawn from AutoStraddle’s list of “100+ LGBTQ black women you should know.”
Angelina Weld Grimké, journalist
Like Lorena Hickok and her love for Eleanor Roosevelt, Angelina Weld Grimké was a Harlem Renaissance writer-teacher whose love for women was evidenced by her letters.
For example, she wrote to her female friend, Mamie Burrile: “I know you are too young now to become my wife, but I hope, darling, that in a few years you will come to me and be my love, my wife!”
She was also one of the first African-American women to have a play performed publicly, which the NAACP said: “This is the first attempt to use the stage for race propaganda in order to enlighten the American people relating to the lamentable condition of ten millions of Colored citizens in this free republic.”
Ma Rainey, blues singer
Regarded as the “Mother of the Blues”, Ma Rainey was one of the first blues singers to record and she released over 94 records.
Playing for mixed audiences all over the country, she sang songs like “Prove it On Me Blues,” which declared her love for women: “They said I do it, ain’t nobody caught me. Sure got to prove it on me. Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must’ve been women, cause I don’t like no men.”
Josephine Baker, dancer
Gaining renown as as a French dancer but never appreciated by her homeland, Josephine Baker was the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture and was regarded as a world-famous entertainer. She later became a civil rights activist, refusing to perform to segregated audiences.
Her own son, Jean-Claude Baker, regarded his mother as bisexual, having a number of both male and female lovers.
Angela Davis, activist
Angela Davis was involved in the counterculture activist movement in the 1960s, having ties with both the Communist and the Black Panther Party. However, she was also regarded as the one of the leading feminist voices of her time.
She came out as a lesbian in Out magazine in 1997.
Alice Walker, author
Alice Walker is primarily known for her book, The Color Purple, which was turned into a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg. However, she’s also a prolific poet, author, and editor.
She’s also been active in anti-war, pro-Palestine, and Civil Rights movements. Likewise, in the mid-1990s, she was involved in a relationship with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.
Barbara Jordan, politician
As the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote at the Democratic National Convention, Barbara Jordan was also the first African-American member of the Texas Senate post-Reconstruction, the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and, when she died, was the first African-American woman buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
She had a partner of over 30 years, an educational psychologist named Nancy Earl.
Tracy Chapman, musician
Tracy Chapman’s 1988 debut album turned multi-platinum, garnering four Grammys, including Best New Artist. She also managed to play at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday party.
She’s also known as the singer/songwriter whose liberal politics proved influential on American college campuses in the late 90s.
As mentioned earlier, she dated Alice Walker, though both of them prefer to keep their private lives separate from their professional lives.