LGBT People of History 81 - Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk was perhaps the most famous openly gay man in politics due to his pioneering work for a truly open, equal and accepting society and his subsequent assassination. There have been many documentaries and movies made as well as books written about him.
Harvey Bernard Milk (1930 – 1978) was born to Lithuanian Jewish parents on Long Island, New York. When he was young he was teased for his sticking-out ears, big nose and feet. He hid behind the façade of playing the clown. When he was a teenager he accepted his homosexuality but kept it a secret. He attended college in Albany studying mathematics and became well-known for being friendly and outgoing.
During the Korean War he served in the US Navy and upon discharge he became a teacher. Harvey was a passionate and romantic soul and he met Joe Campbell in 1956. They spent 6 years together in New York City and in Texas. In 1962, back in New York and now an actuary at an insurance firm, he met Craig Rodwell, who was a gay activist. This did not sit well with Harvey and the relationship ended when Craig was arrested. A complex relationship with Jack Galen McKinley followed.
They moved to San Francisco where a sizeable gay community was building up due to men having been fired from the navy for being gay. Hippies and gay men were attracted San Francisco and to the Castro area in large numbers. When McKinley and Harvey broke up, Harvey moved around the US aimlessly until he met Scott Smith and they moved back to San Francisco opening a camera shop.
By this time Harvey had lost his ‘conservative’ image and ideals and had grown his hair. Because of laws and discrimination against homosexuality, the growing gay population and various other political incidents, Harvey finally had enough and decided to get involved.
He was a ‘natural’ politician and had found his vocation. He was a forthright and flamboyant speaker earning support for his policies. He was very good at forming coalitions bringing together various groups with vested interests eg the campaign against a beer company. Politics in San Francisco was becoming more and more liberal. He reviewed his appearance and after two failed attempts was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was the first openly gay man to be elected to a public position. This was when homosexuality was not to the fore in public debate. He was a champion of local issues as well as of gay rights.
In 1978, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were both assassinated by Dan White, a disgruntled ex-city supervisor. White claimed ‘diminished responsibility’ and was convicted of manslaughter and given a 7 year sentence. This ridiculous sentence caused riots on the streets of San Francisco in 1979.
Several places in San Francisco have been named in his honour and President Obama posthumously awarded him the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ for what he did for the gay rights movement.
Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag – symbol of gay and lesbian rights. He was a friend of Harvey’s and perhaps was inspired by him.
Harvey Milk was a legend and a hero.
Ian and Callum.
With thanks to Wikipedia.
- Raiders Of The LGBT Vault - Raiders of the LGBT Vault
Our site brings to light our LGBT History and Biographies Of International LGBT People of the past. Some you will know and some you wont know about. Our aim is to educate and bring the lives of legendary historical LGBT people to light and give insig
- LGBT People Of History Collection
Here are the links to each of the LGBT People Of History hubs that Ian and I have wrote. As mentioned above, each time a new one is published you will find it on here.