Famous Black and African American Lesbians

Black Lesbians and Bisexual Women

More and more famous lesbians and bisexual women are coming out of the closet. Coming out as lesbian or bisexual for celebrities is not the career suicide it once was. Within the African American community, the era known as The Harlem Renaissance was also a time where many gay and lesbian performers felt free to be out of the closet. Here is a list of some famous African American lesbians and bisexual women.

01
of 15

Alice Walker

'The Color Purple' Broadway opening night - Arrivals And Curtain Call
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Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker admits to being bisexual and having a relationship with lesbian song writer Tracy Chapman in the 1990s. She is also the mother of another famous bisexual writer Rebecca Walker.
02
of 15

Audre Lorde

Atlantic Center for the Arts
Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Audre Lorde was a Black Feminist Lesbian Poet who published 20 books of poetry and prose. She was an inspiration to many lesbians and is widely quoted. She died of cancer in 1992.
03
of 15

Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan
Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Barbara Jordan was a true trailblazer. She broke many barriers for women in politics. It was only after her death in 1996 that her sexual orientation was revealed to the public.
04
of 15

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Bessie Smith (1894-1937) was one of the most successful Black artists of her era. Bessie Smith performed for many private parties, at speakeasies and "rent parties." She loved to tour and bought her own railroad car so she and her performers could travel in comfort from town to town, avoiding the Jim Crow laws of the time.

05
of 15

C.C. Carter

Lesbian Poet C.C. Carter Performing
Lesbian Poet C.C. Carter Performing. Courtesy of C.C. Carter
C.C. Carter is an American poet and spoken-word artist who has performed everywhere from cruise ships to colleges and universities including opening for famous poets like Nikki Giovanni.
06
of 15

Doria Roberts

Doria Roberts
Doria Roberts. © doriaroberts.com

Doria Roberts rise to fame began when she was selected to take part in Lilith Faire in 1999. Unfortunately, it was a time when the music industry was pretty homophobic and Doria had to choose between being an out and major record deals.

07
of 15

Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley
Moni3/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Although Gladys Bentley was out early in her life, this famous Blues singer later recanted her homosexuality and attempted to live a straight life.

08
of 15

Jacqueline Woodson

2014 National Book Awards
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Jacqueline Woodson is the author of fiction for young adults. In her books she often deals with issues of race and sexuality.

09
of 15

Karen Williams

Interscope BET Party
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She's a stand-up comedian, a business owner, a trainer and a healer. Karen Williams is also one sexy woman, dishing out advice about how to keep love alive via laughter.

10
of 15

Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry Portrait Session
David Attie/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) is best known as being the playwrite of A Raisin in the Sun, one of the most popular Broadway plays of the 1950s. Although she kept her sexual orientation a secret during her lifetime, she did write for the lesbian publication The Ladder using only her initials to identify herself.
11
of 15
MaRainey
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Ma Rainey is often called "Mother of the Blues." She was openly bisexual and was rumored to have had a relationship with Bessie Smith. More »
Mabel Hampton
Gobonobo/Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use
Mabel Hampton, a Black lesbian pioneer inspired many during her 87 year stay on this planet. More »
13
of 15

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler. Nikolas Coukouma/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 2.5
Octavia Butler (1947-2006) is one of the most popular and celebrated science fiction writers of our era. She won a MacArthur Fellowship, which is also known as a "genius grant" in 1995.
14
of 15

Sheryl Swoopes

Cheryl Swoopes
Tonythetiger/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes was the first African American lesbian sports figure to come out as lesbian. "My reason for coming out isn't to be some sort of hero," Swoopes said. "I'm just at a point in my life where I'm tired of having to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love."

Swoopes caused a bit of controversy when she said that being gay was a choice for her. Then in 2011 she stirred things up again by announcing she's getting married to a man.

15
of 15
Wanda Sykes
Greg Hernandez/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 2.0

Comedian and Actress Wanda Sykes came out at a rally in Las Vegas on November 15, 2008 as part of the national day of protest against California's anti-gay Prop 8, Wanda Sykes announced, "I am proud to be gay!" She also told of marrying her girlfriend on October 25th 2008. More »