Black Queer People Writing Ourselves Into History: An Autostraddle Master List

Welcome to Autostraddle’s 2020 Black History Month Series, a deliberate celebration of black queer clarity of vision and self-determination.

Just a little over six months ago, this past August, marked the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship that reached America. That ship arrived at Point Comfort in what was then the British colony of Virginia, and it had onboard 20 to 30 enslaved Africans.

To mark the occasion The New York Times launched The 1619 Project, asking us to reframe what it would mean to seriously consider 1619 as the start of our nation’s birth, as opposed the date we’re all taught in elementary school, 1776 (the adoption of Declaration of Independence). Doing so requires placing the fights and contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country. But more than that, it requires never losing track that anti-black racism is at the very root of what we even call America. Project curator Nikole Hannah-Jones reminds us that black people have always been “the prefecters of this democracy;” after all “No one cherishes freedom more than those who have not had it.”

When I sat down to write this post on Autostraddle, a queer and proudly indie digital magazine, I didn’t expect that I’d open by referencing a large-scale media corporation like The New York Times, and certainly not quoting a project that’s over a half-year old. But Hannah-Jones’ demand that we reimagine the stories we’ve told ourselves about who we are as a people still hasn’t shaken from my bones. Without consciously knowing it, her words rumbled in the back of my head as I planned out the month ahead.

This February – in the year of our (Audre) Lorde 2020 – at Autostraddle we’re talking about 20/20 vision and dedicating our Black History Month in observance of “Black Clarity.” If it’s one thing that not only the Americas, but the global black diaspora, has taught us – it’s that there is no such thing as “winning” within a system inherently designed on the degradation of your own humanity. Or to quote queen mother Audre, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We have to burn that fucker to the ground first. We have to tell our own stories, and create our own timeline; we have to nurture ourselves on our own terms.

As we imagine new worlds for ourselves as queer black women, we want to know –who were the visionaries of our past? And who are those visionaries right now? As queer and trans black people, who have we’ve loved or looked up to? When did have we found clarity about our purpose? Who helped us imagine our own future?

We want this year’s Black History Month to be serious, as the month’s title often implies. But also – we want it to be sexy, fun (and funny), JOYful. We want it to reflect the multiple ways that black people see ourselves and walk through our world.

And so, we begin it here. By writing ourselves back into our own history.

To kick off this Black History Month, I’ve collected some the best of Autostraddle’s past. These are only some of the ways that black lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans women and non-binary folks have found ourselves and written ourselves. We’ll here all month, and every month thereafter, giving you content that’s uniquely black and feminist and queer, much like what you’ll read below.

Spend some time this weekend, this month (and far beyond February) reading black queer people.

Happy Black History Month.


What to Read and Leave Feeling Inspired

How Whitney Houston Taught Me the Greatest Love of All For My Queer Black Self

When I Was 27, Toni Morrison Saved My Life

Proudly Black, Fat, Queer and Making a Home for Myself in Cosplay

What Can Black Queer People Learn From the Lost Queer Joy of the Civil Rights Movement?

Shoulder Pads and Short Cuts: How Grace Jones Made Me Powerful

We Thought We Had The Voice Forever: In Memoriam of Maya Angelou

Line Breaks for Resistance: How Black Poetry Lets Us Rescue Ourselves

These Five Black LGBTQ+ Activists Are Literally Saving The Planet

What If This Was a Celebration

Martin Luther King Day Roundtable: What’s In Your Black Justice Toolkit?


What to Read and Learn Something New

Black August: A Feminist and Queer Syllabus for Black Liberation

Lorraine Hansberry Liked, Hated and Was Bored To Death With Being A Lesbian

Young, Gifted, Black, and Closeted: Barbara Jordan’s Political Rise in a Country Not Yet Ready For Her

How Coretta Scott King Leveraged MLK’s Legacy to Fight for Gay Rights

Playlist: Black Queer Music History Pt. 1 (Early 20th Century)

Playlist: Black Queer Music History, Pt. 2 (1930s-1960s)

Black American Gothic: A Southern Herstory of Black Magic Women


What to Read and Remember That Not Everything About Black People Has to Be Traumatic

23 Black Queer and Trans Femmes to Follow on Instagram This Black History Month

Playlist: Fuck Independence Day, Celebrate Black Women Instead

Playlist: 10 Lyrics to Help Your #BlackGirlMagic Shine

Four Reasons Why Afros Are the New Alternative Lifestyle Haircut

The Burlesque Show


What to Read When You’ve Got Time (#Longreads. Group Projects. And Personal Essays.)

I Never Meant for My Hair to Be the Way Back to the Lighthouse

Making the Dive and Loving Myself Dangerously

The Rumors Were Enough: Josephine Baker, Frida Kahlo, Their Romance and Me

I Didn’t Know How to Be Poor, Black, Biracial, AND Queer; So I Wasn’t

The ‘M’ Word

Six Tips for Navigating Chicago as a (Baby) Black Queer

The QPOC Speakeasy Speaking Out With Love To Mike Brown

Living While Black, Queer and Sometimes Mistaken For Male

Going Back Outside After the Streetlights Come On

Black History Month Roundtable: What Does Queering Black History Mean To You?

Carmen is Autostraddle's Deputy Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 224 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. thanks for the list and the work compiling this. as living in europe i wasnt aware of the black history month.coincidence: i recently reread april sinclair:come on baby light my fire”- in the usa more known under the titel “aint gonna be the same fool twice” which is the sequel of coffee will make you black. her “coffee” book seems to be more known,sadly not the sequel.“coffee” deals more with her identity as a a black woman than her sexual identity, “light my fire”/”aint gonna be the same fool twice” deals with her landing in “frisco”in the early seventies after the college and falling in love with a black and later a white woman(and a boy shortly)and living with a gay best friend. highly recommended. that list looks good too https://www.autostraddle.com/10-novels-memoirs-by-and-about-black-lesbian-bisexual-and-queer-women-224721/#comment-910541

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