10 Black LGBTQ+ heroes honored on stamps

10 Black LGBTQ+ heroes honored on stamps

LGBTQ Black history isn’t honored nearly enough, and certainly not on a national level by the government. But with these commemorative stamps, some queer Black heroes are getting special recognition.

Alvin Ailey (1931-1989)

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey was an acclaimed dance choreographer on a global stage and his Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues on today. His dance piece “Revelations,” shown on the stamp, is considered the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world. It has been seen by more than 23 million people in 71 countries since 1960.

Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine Baker

This French stamp honors Josephine Baker, the performer born in St. Louis who moved to France at the age of nineteen. Baker was a true hero for her work as an anti-Nazi spy and an activist against segregation in the United States, and she did it all while being one of the most successful dancer-singer-actresses in the world for her time—and being a mom of twelve.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

James Baldwin

James Baldwin was one of the greatest American writers, but due to the racism of the United States he spent much of his life living in Paris. His novels Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) and Giovanni’s Room (1956) and his essay collection Notes of a Native Son (1955) were important works that dealt with themes of race, sexuality, and class.

Angela Davis (1944-present)

Angela Davis

Though Angela Davis is American, Uruguay is the country that honored her with a stamp, commemorating her visit to the country in 2019. Davis is a prominent activist and academic who works for prison abolition and against racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

Billie Holiday

Jazz and swing singer Billie Holiday, the singer of “Strange Fruit,” was bisexual and had a likely but unconfirmed relationship with actress Tallulah Bankhead. This is touched on in the 2021 film The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)

Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan was the first woman and Black person to be elected to Congress from Texas. In 1976, she was also the first Black woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. President Clinton said he wanted to nominate her to the Supreme Court but that her multiple sclerosis was too advanced by the time he got the chance. He awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.

Alain Locke (1885-1954)

Alain Locke

Philosopher and writer Alain Locke was an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance, an important period of Black history that was also very queer. He became the first African American Rhodes Scholar in 1907 and was a professor at Harvard University—until 1925 when tried to get equal pay with white professors.

Bessie Smith (1894-1937)

Bessie Smith

Nicknamed “The Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith was a key figure in the Jazz Age. Not only was she a wildly popular blues singer in the 1920s and 30s as the highest-paid Black performer in the country, she was also very popular in her romantic life and was openly bisexual. 

Ma Rainey (1886-1939)

‘Ma’ Rainey

A friend, mentor, and maybe more of Bessie Smith, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was known as the “Mother of the Blues.” She was a popular blues singer and also openly bisexual, singing “Prove It On Me Blues” in 1928, referring to how the police couldn’t prove that she had had sex with a woman and had to release her. (Bessie Smith bailed her out.)

Ethel Waters (1896-1977)

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters was a popular singer and actress with an illustrious career that broke boundaries. Waters was the second African American to be nominated for an Academy Award and the first to star on her own television show. While Waters was married three different times to men, she also had relationships with women, including with dancer Ethel Williams during the 1920s. They lived together in Harlem and were nicknamed “The Two Ethels.”

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Right-wing cartoonist tries to blame train crashes on Pete Buttigieg by drawing a big butt

Previous article

Club Q will reopen in the fall with enhanced security & memorial for shooting victims

Next article