LGBTQ History Month: Bruce Nugent
The LGBT community is the only community worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools or in religious institutions. LGBT History Month provides role models, builds community and makes the civil rights statement of our extraordinary national and international contributions. You can find videos, read bios, and see photos of the more than 248 Icons featured to date through the Equality Forum’s website here.
b. July 2, 1906
d. May 27, 1987
Bruce Nugent was a writer and artist during the Harlem Renaissance. He was the first out black writer.
He was born Richard Bruce Nugent to a middle class African-American family in Washington, D.C. After his father died in 1920, Nugent moved to New York to live with his mother. When he told her he was going to be an artist, she sent him back to Washington.
Nugent met author Langston Hughes at a salon in poet Georgia Douglas Johnson’s home. In 1925, Hughes found Nugent’s poem “Shadow” in a trash can and had it published. The poem shocked readers because it was about being gay.
Nugent returned to New York, where he moved in with fellow writer Wallace Thurman and pursued art and writing. One of Nugent’s drawings was published on the cover of Opportunity: Journey of Negro Life. Along with Hughes and other Harlem Renaissance luminaries, Nugent cofounded Fire!!, an African-American art magazine. In 1926, he published “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade,” the first literary work by an African-American that openly depicted homosexuality.
In 1952, Nugent married Grace Marr, who unsuccessfully tried to change his sexuality. They were married nearly 17 years until Marr’s death.
In 1964, Nugent was elected co-chair of Columbia University’s Community Planning Conference, an organization that promoted the arts in Harlem.
Nugent was open about his sexual orientation and was known for his vivacious personality and elegantly erotic style. Called the “Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance,” he is remembered for living unconventionally and for following his own path.
Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the largest annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit. For more information, visit www.equalityforum.com.
“We can’t understand our present and plan effectively for the future without knowing where we came from.”September 30, 2016
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