Today in LGBT History – February 1

If you are neutral about situations of injustice, you have chosen side of the oppressor.    –Desmond Tutu, on a sign at the Peoples March on Washington, Jan. 27, 2018

Learning our history is resistance! Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!

Today in LGBT History – February 1

1902 – James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) is born. He was an African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. He famously wrote about the period that “the negro was in vogue”, which was later paraphrased as “when Harlem was in vogue”. During his time in England in the early 1920s, Hughes became part of the black expatriate community. Some academics and biographers believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, as did Walt Whitman whom Hughes said influenced his poetry. Hughes’s story “Blessed Assurance” deals with a father’s anger over his son’s effeminacy and “queerness”. Unlike the generation of black poets who came after him, Hughes approach to American racism was more wry than angry, but he helped set the mood for today’s black movement. With his friend Countee Cullen who was also gay, he was the center of Harlem’s literary renaissance in the 1920s. On May 22, 1967, Hughes died in New York City at the age of 65 from complications after abdominal surgery related to prostate cancer. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

1942, Germany – A legal amendment formally extends the death penalty to men found guilty of having sex with another man.

1949, France – The Paris Prefect of Police issues a decree forbidding men from dancing together in public.

1960 – In Greensboro, North Carolina, four African American students sat down and ordered coffee at a lunch counter in Woolworths Drug Store. They were refused service but did not leave. Instead, they waited all day. The scene was repeated over the next few days, with protests spreading to other southern states, resulting in the eventual arrest of over 1,600 persons for participating in sit-ins. The Black Freedom movement was the inspiration for most of the early gay rights activists in North America. 

1978 – Tom of Finland has his first U.S. exhibit at Robert Opel’s Fey Way Gallery in San Francisco

1979 – A gang of teenage boys stands outside Tennessee Williams’ (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983) home in Key West, Florida, and begins throwing beer cans and firecrackers at the house while chanting “Come on out, faggot!” The incident is the latest in a string of bizarre homophobic attacks aimed at the openly gay playwright.  Five days later, his dog is kidnapped from his backyard, never to be seen again.

1980 – Paul Schrader’s (born July 22, 1946) film “American Gigolo opens nationwide. Though rather homophobic, the whole film is steeped in a gay aesthetic. Years later, Schrader noted, “At the time we were at the apex of the gay movement in all its manifestations, especially in the arts. The influence was everywhere–in our fashion, in disco, in the drug scene. It affected that film’s aesthetic, too. All my friends at the time were gay.” Schrader is an American screenwriterfilm director, and film critic. Schrader wrote or co-wrote screenplays for four Martin Scorsese films: Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Schrader has also directed 18 feature films,

2009, Iceland – Johanna Siguroardottir (born 4 October 1942) becomes Iceland’s first female Prime Minister and the world’s first openly lesbian head of government 

2010, Fiji – Homosexual conduct is decriminalized.

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(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at,, Lavender Effect,, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia. If you wish to edit an item or add an item, please send an email to me at Thanks!)

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