February has been recognized as Black History Month in the United States since 1925. Since its inception, this yearly celebration has provided the people of the United States and the world with an opportunity to honor the gifts, accomplishments and contributions African Americans have made to American society and to civilization at large.

In honoring and celebrating Black history, we contribute to the healing and perfecting of the union we are called to build as a nation. Intersections International is proud to honor this call every day in our work towards justice and reconciliation.

To honor Black History Month this year, we are excited to share this resource list celebrating the work of Black activists and advocates, artists, writers, athletes and clergy. In extension of Intersections' commitment to LGBT equality and inclusion, in this collection we have made an effort to include many Black trailblazers who are members of the LGBT community.

Black History Month Resource List

Top L-R: Rebecca Cox Jackson, Grant-Michael Fitzgerald, Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé, Desmond Tutu, Pauli Murray, Rebecca Perot

Bottom L-R: Walatta Petros, Delois Blakely aka Queen Mother, Delores Berry, Peter J. Gomes

Through the centuries, Black religious leaders have been spiritual visionaries, global peacebuilders and queer changemakers. The luminaries on this list have all used a faith-rooted value system to work for justice, equality and inclusion in both their faith communities and society as a whole.

Delois Blakely aka Queen Mother 

Dr. Delois Blakely is a former Roman Catholic nun and Goodwill Ambassador for the African Union to the United Nations; she is a religious leader and global activist for women’s rights, children and the elimination of poverty
 
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Delores Berry

Rev. Delores Berry was a co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, co-organizer of the first Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, D.C., and the first People of Color Gay and Lesbian White House Conference.
 
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Desmond Tutu

Sir Desmond Tutu is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian, anti-apartheid and human rights activist and the recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize
 
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Grant-Michael Fitzgerald

Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald was one of the few African American members in the the Order of the Salvatorians in the 1960s. A strong advocate for gay rights and religious freedom, he founded the first Salvatorian Gay Ministry Task Force. 
 
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Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé

Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé was a queer-identifying theologian of African and Cherokee ancestry, an HIV/AIDS activist, interfaith scholar, multi-ethnic artist and spiritual leader. 
 
Learn more:
Ibrahim Farajajé: Queer theologian, AIDS activist, interfaith scholar, spiritual leader”:

Pauli Murray 

Pauli Murray was a queer, gender-nonconforming civil and women’s rights activist and lawyer, author and first Black woman to be ordained in the Episcopal church in 1977
 
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Peter J. Gomes

Rev. Peter J. Gomes was a gay Baptist minister at Harvard University, known for his work of dismantling homophobic interpretations of Scripture. 
 
Learn more:
“Peter Gomes: Gay black Harvard minister preached ‘scandalous gospel’”:

The Two Rebeccas

Rebecca Cox Jackson and her partner Rebecca Perot, known as “the two Rebeccas,” founded a Shaker religious community in the 1800s in Philadelphia
 
Learn more:
The Two Rebeccas: Queer black pair founded Shaker religious community in 1800s”:

Walatta Petros

Walatta Petros was a 17th century Ethiopian nun who led a successful movement to preserve African Christian beliefs against European efforts to convert Ethiopians from their ancient form of Christianity.
 
Learn more:
“Walatta Petros: African nun and saint with a female partner in 17th-century”:
 

Top L-R: Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, Amanda S. C. Gorman, Aminatta Forna, Amiri Baraka, Angel Nafis, Angelina Weld Grimke, Assotto Saint, Audre Lorde, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, Chinua Achebe

Middle L-R: Danez Smith, Dawn Lundy Martin, Donika Kelly, Essex Hemphill, James Baldwin, Jericho Brown, Julian Randall, June Jordan, Justin Phillip Reed, Kemi Alabi, L. Lamar Wilson

Bottom L-R: Mariama Ba, Nikki Giovanni, Nuruddin Farah, Octavia Butler, Pat Parker, r. erica doyle, Rickey, Laurentis, Saeed Jones’, Xandria Phillips


This week, we honor Black literary legends of yesterday and today. Through poetry and prose, activism and art, these writers have engaged with the struggles of the past and present, envisioned the possibilities of the future and confronted the trauma of oppression and violence.
Note that some poetry and prose selections may include strong language, violent images or sexual images. 

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson 

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson was a bisexual and biracial activist, teacher and writer in the early 20th century. She was the first African American woman to publish a collection of short stories. 
 
Learn more:
“Queer Women History Forgot: Alice Dunbar-Nelson”

Amanda Gorman

Amanda S. C. Gorman is an American poet and activist whose work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. She was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate and the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. 
 
 
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Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna is a Scottish and Sierra Leonean writer, founder of the Rogbonko Project and an advocate for education, sanitation and maternal health in Africa. 
 
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Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka, previously known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He was the co-founder of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s that was dedicated to creating art that fought for Black liberation. 
 
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Angel Nafis

Angel Nafis is a Black, feminist American poet, curator, teacher and performer who was awarded a Creative Writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
 
 
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Angelina Weld Grimke

Angelina Weld Grimke, daughter of the second African American to attend Harvard Law School, was an American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. It’s widely believed that Angelina was a lesbian or bisexual, something affirmed by her poems and letters.
 
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Assotto Saint

Assotto Saint was a Black Haitian-born and New York-based poet, performance artist, singer and founder of a theater that exclusively produced performances written by and about Black gay men. Saint was one of the first Black gay activists to publicly disclose his HIV status in the 1980s. 
 
Learn more:
“Remembering Assotto Saint: A Fierce and Fatal Vision”

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist and civil rights activist who described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Lorde was recognized globally for her activism and was a key voice in 20th century literature.
 
 
Learn more:
“With a $2 Million Gift, Spelman Will Launch the First-Ever HBCU Queer Studies Chair in Honor of Audre Lorde”

Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Britteney Black Rose Kapri is a Chicago-based poet, performer, playwright and teaching artist whose work focuses on sexuality through a Black, queer and feminist lens.
 

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor and critic. His first novel Things Fall Apart, often considered his masterpiece, is the most widely read book in modern African literature.
 
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Danez Smith 

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, nonbinary, openly HIV-positive writer, poet and performer. Their work focuses on race, police brutality and gender. 
 
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Dawn Lundy Martin 

Dawn Lundy Martin is a poet, essayist and activist whose poems often depict the beauty and struggle of Black queer life. Martin has received numerous awards for her powerful words.
 
 
Learn more:
“The Rumpus interview with Dawn Lundy Martin”

Donika Kelly

Donika Kelly is a Black lesbian poet and creative writing assistant professor. She is best known for her poetry collection called Bestiary.
 

Essex Hemphill 

Essex Hemphill was an openly gay American poet, performer and activist known for addressing race, identity, sexuality, HIV/AIDS and the family in his work. Hemphill received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and grants from the Pew Charitable Trust Fellowship in the Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
 
 
Learn more:
National Museum of African-American History: Essex Hemphill

James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a gay American poet, novelist, activist and playwright whose work often depicted the complicated intersections between racial, sexual and social issues. He is known as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century with much of his work focused on the Black American experience during the mid-late 1900s.
 
 
Learn more:
“James Baldwin the Last Interview and Other Conversations”

Jericho Brown 

Jericho Brown is a gay Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, scholar and director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University.
 
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Julian Randall

Julian Randall is a quuer poet from Chicago who has received multiple fellowships and awards for documenting a biracial gay man's journey navigating race, family and sexuality. 
 
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June Jordan

June Jordan was one of the most widely-published and highly-acclaimed Jamaican American writers during the civil rights, women’s rights, and sexual freedom movements. Her work explored issues of gender, race and immigration. Jordan identified as bisexual.
 
Learn more:
National Museum of African-American History: June Jordan

Justin Phillip Reed

Justin Phillip Reed is a gay American poet, essayist and novelist, best known for his National Book Award-winning debut poetry collection Indecency.
 
 
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Kemi Alabi

Kemi Alabi (they/them) is a Chicago-based writer and cultural strategist. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and the Brittle Paper Award.

L. Lamar Wilson

L. Lamar Wilson is an award winning black, queer and disabled poet and writer based in Birmingham, Alabama. 
 
 
Learn more:
The Ubuntu Biography Project: L. Lamar Wilson

Mariama Ba

Mariama Ba was a Muslim Senegalese author and feminist whose writing advocated for African women and addressed issues of polygamy and the caste system. 
 
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Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni is is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. 
She has won seven NAACP Image Awards, has been nominated for a Grammy, was a finalist for the National Book Award and has authored three New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers. 
 
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Nuruddin Farah

Nuruddin Farah is a Somali novelist and playwright whose work portrays powerful stories on feminism, life under an African dictatorship and stories of exile. 
 
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Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler was a Black, lesbian science fiction writer who blended science fiction with African American spiritualism. Butler became the first ever science fiction writer to receive a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation. 
 
Learn more:
“This black lesbian became a giant in her field no matter what her critics threw at her”

Pat Parker

Pat Parker is an African American lesbian feminist poet, performer and activist, whose poems are informed by these intersecting identities and her difficult upbringing.
 
 
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r. erica doyle

r. erica doyle was born in Brooklyn to Trinidadian immigrant parents and her collection, “proxy” won the 2014 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America and was a Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. 
 
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Rickey Laurentis

Rickey Laurentis, trans author and poet, was born in New Orleans in 1989. Their writing is supported by several fellowships and foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy and the Cave Canem Foundation. 

Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones is a poet whose work focuses on themes of sexuality, transformation, manhood, intimacy, race and power, and often incorporate elements of mythology. He has received the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, the Pushcart Prize, the Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award, the Publishing Triangle and a Cave Canem fellowship. 
 
 
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Xandria Phillips

Xandria Phillips is writer and abstract artist from Ohio. She is a Judith A. Markowitz Award Winner for emerging writers, and has received fellowships from Oberlin College, Cave Canem, Callaloo, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. 
 
 
Learn more:

More Resources on Black Writers and Poets:

“Best Black queer books, according to Black LGBTQ leaders”
 
“A Brief History Of Queer Young Adult Literature” - touching on Rosa Guy’s Ruby, the first young adult novel to center a queer teen of color 
 



Top L-R: Bessie Smith

Middle L-R: Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, Bill T. Jones, Cheryl Dunye, Dee Rees, Emile Griffith, Lena Waithe

Bottom L-R: Lucille Bogan, Lucy Hicks Anderson, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Gladys Bentley, Marlon Riggs, Juliana Huxtable, Justin Simien, Sir Lady Java, Laverne Cox

 
It’s impossible to imagine American culture without the contributions of Black actors, singers, songwriters, directors, choreographers and athletes. These trailblazers and game changers have used song, dance, film, photography, performance and athleticism as beautiful acts of resistance, showing the world the meaning of Black joy in the past, present and future.

Alberta Hunter

Alberta Hunter was a lesbian jazz and blues singer and songwriter who achieved international fame in the 1930s for her vigorous and rhythmically infectious style. After twenty years working as a well-respected nurse, Hunter enjoyed a resurgence of celebrity in the late 1970s and early '80s. 
 
Learn more:
Memphis Hall of Fame: Alberta Hunter

Bessie Smith 

Bessie Smith, nicknamed the "Empress of the Blues," lived openly as bisexual and was the highest-paid African American blues singer during the Jazz Age. Her commanding vocals insisted on the importance of the lyrics which highlighted her life as a young, black, poor woman.
 
Learn more:
“Forebears: Bessie Smith, The Empress Of The Blues”

Bill T. Jones 

Bill T. Jones, born William Tass Jones, is an American choreographer, film director, author, dancer and co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He has received major honors, including the National Medal of Arts, the MacArthur “Genius” Award and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.
 
Learn more:
Bill T. Jones: The dancer, the singer, the cellist ... and a moment of creative magic

Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye is a Liberian-born American film director, producer, screenwriter, editor and actress who is best known for directing The Watermelon Woman - the first feature film directed by a Black lesbian. The film is considered a landmark in New Queer Cinema.
 
Learn more:
“Cheryl Dunye: Bringing Queer Blackness to the Forefront”

Dee Rees

Mentored by Spike Lee, Dee Rees is an award-winning writer and director, celebrated for her lesbian coming-of-age film Pariah and the Oscar-nominated Mudbound.
 
Learn more:
“Dee Rees and the Art of Surviving as a Black Female Director”

Emile Griffith

Emile Griffith was a bisexual professional boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands, who became a World Champion in the welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight classes. Griffith’s boxing career was overshadowed by his Madison Square Garden knockout of Benny Paret, who died from a concussion ten days after the fight.  
 
Learn more:
“Emile Griffith, Boxer Who Unleashed a Fatal Barrage, Dies at 75”
“A word that haunts us all”

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters was an American singer and actress known for her full-bodied voice, wide range and slow vibrato, who frequently performed jazz, swing and pop music on Broadway and in films, starting in the 1920s. She is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and has been nominated for an Emmy and an Academy award. 
 
Learn more:
National Museum of African American History and Culture: Ethel Waters

Gladys Bentley 

Gladys Alberta Bentley, eldest of four from a Trinidadian immigrant family, joined New York's Harlem Renaissance jazz scene at the age of 16 and became an instant success after performing at gay speakeasy Harry Hansberry's Clam House in New York in the 1920s. She was a black, lesbian, cross-dressing blues singer and pianist.
 
 
Learn more:
"Gladys Bentley: Gender-Bending Performer and Musician | Unladylike2020 | American Masters | PBS”

Juliana Huxtable 

Juliana Huxtable is a multidisciplinary artist whose work includes DJ’ing, photography, music, painting and writing. Her art focuses on gender fluidity, trans identity, drug addiction, vulnerability, motherhood and trauma.
 
Learn more:
Watch PBS: THE “C” FILES WITH MARIA BRITO “Juliana Huxtable and Swoon” 

Justin Simien   

Justin Simien is a queer, black filmmaker, actor and author, best known for his movie Dear White People, which won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
 
Learn more:
“Justin Simien: Being Queer Is 'Like a Superpower'“

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is an American actress and LGBT advocate, best known for her role breakout role in Orange Is The New Black. She was the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.
 
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Lena Waithe

Lena Waithe is an American screenwriter, producer, actress and Primetime Emmy Award winner known for creating the Showtime shows The Chi, Boomerang and Twenties.
 
Learn more:
“Why Lena Waithe says being a Black queer woman has helped her in Hollywood”

Lucille Bogan

Lucille Bogan (pseudonym Bessie Jackson) is considered one of "the big three of the blues," along with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, was an American classic blues singer and songwriter and one of the first to be recorded.
 
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Lucy Hicks Anderson

Lucy Hicks Anderson was a socialite and chef. Born in 1886, she was assigned male at birth, but identified as a woman - decades before the term transgender came into existence
 
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Ma Rainey

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, the "Mother of the Blues," was a professional African American blues singer known for her authentic expression of southern blues and for being one of the first Black recording artists in history. She was known for her bisexual and lesbian-affirming songs. 
 
Learn more:
Overlooked No More: Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues’

Marlon Riggs

Marlon Riggs was an Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker, poet, educator and gay activist. He is known for directing and writing the documentary films Ethnic Notions, Tongues Untied, Color Adjustment, and Black Is...Black Ain't.
 
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Sir Lady Java

Sir Lady Java, also known as Lady Java, is an American transgender trailblazer, activist, dancer, singer, comedian and actress, who played a pivotal role in transgender advocacy in the 1960s to 1970s. 
 
Learn more:
“The Untold Truth of Trans Rights Hero Sir Lady Java”

Other Black and LGBT Arts and Entertainment Resources

Queer Harlem Renaissance : A Prospectus (prod. by Shoga Films)
 
“All the World’s Our Stage: Four Pioneers of Queer Cinema and Theater Look Back On Their Careers”
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Images used for educational/non-commercial use only.

Images that are not public domain, please see creative commons licenses:
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Other images Credits:
Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson
Assotto Saint 
Britteney Black Rose Kapri 
Donika Kelly
Jericho Brown
Julian Randall
Justin Phillip Reed
Kemi Alabi
L. Lamar Wilson
R. Erica Doyle
Ricky Laurentiis