Black History Month is observed in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora, which refers to the communities throughout the world descendants from the people of Africa. In the United States and Canada is celebrated in February, and the United Kingdom observes it in October.
As part of our effort to highlight prominent members of the LGBTQ Black community, we take a deeper look at Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Author Elisa Rolle, which was reviewed in Connextions Magazine issue #17: Love Around the World.
These are just a sample of people who identified as gay and black and dared to show their love during times when there may have been laws against their love and they dared to be different.
Alberta Hunter & Lottie Tyler
Alberta was an American blues singer, songwriter and nurse. Lottie was the niece of 1920’s comedian Bert Williams and they were together for 33 years, until Tyler passed away.
Ethel Waters & Ethel Williams
Waters was an African-American blues jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. Waters was nominated for an academy award and an Emmy award making her the first African American woman to be nominated. Their relationship made them known as the two Ethel’s.
Feral Benga & Geoffrey Gorer
Geoffrey was an anthropologist and author. Feral Benga was a dancer and a model. Geoffrey and Feral were together 22 years.
William Thomas “Billy Strayhorn” & Aaron Bridges
Billy was an American jazz composer and pianist. Billy and his partner, Aaron Bridges, were together 10 years.
Gordon Heath & Lee Payant
African-American actor and musician was together with his partner Lee Payant for 29 years. Gordon and Lee moved to Europe because racial and sexual attitudes were more tolerant at the time.
Barbara Jordan & Nancy Earl
Barbara was an American politician, and leader of the Civil Rights movement. Barbara was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first woman to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. Barbara also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was together with her partner, Nancy Earl, for 29 years.
Elisa Rolle brilliantly and methodically , documents the love among same-sex couples throughout the centuries, as far back as written records were kept. She brings to light couples who lasted more than 50 years, and in some cases it was documented that after one of the partner’s death, the surviving partner would often die shortly after. These men and women, members of our LGBT community, were pioneers and started opening doors for the civil rights movement.