miss major griffin gracy

Black LBGTQ History Icons

Marsha P. Johnson

  • A leader of the Stonewall Riots. According to several eyewitnesses, Marsha was the one who “really started it”. She was “in the middle of the whole thing, screaming and yelling and throwing rocks and almost like Molly Pitcher in the Revolution or something”
  • Dedicated her life to activism:
    • Co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (later renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries)
    • Ensured that the young drag queens, trans women and other street kids on Christopher Street were fed and clothed. Marsha also housed them whenever she could. 
    • In the 1980s, she was an activist and organizer in ACT UP. 

Stormé DeLarverie

  • Also a leader in the Stonewall Riots - has been identified as the “butch lesbian that threw the first punch” against the police officers.
  • Several eye-witnesses recollections also recognize her as the cross-dressing lesbian that yelled “why don’t you guys do something” at the bystanders that evoked the reaction from them that helped make Stonewall a defining moment in history.
  • Unofficially worked at gay bars who otherwise couldn’t afford security.

Bayard Rustin

  • Was a leading strategist of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement between 1955-1968:
    • The formidable behind the scenes figure of the civil rights movement who organized the March on Washington
    • Through his influence, the civil rights leadership adopted a non-violent stance.
    • Is and was often overlooked in African-American history because of the public’s discomfort with his sexual orientation.
  • Supported LGBTQ rights and movements.
  • Was posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

  • Another leader in the Stonewall Riots.
  • Has been involved in community efforts since 1978. She has worked at local food banks, provide services for trans women suffering from addiction or homelessness. During the AIDS epidemic she also provided healthcare and funeral services.
  • Is currently serving as the Executive Director for the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project, working to assist transgender persons who are disproportionately incarcerated under a prison-industrial complex.

Alvin Ailey

  • At the young age of 22, Alvin AIley became Artistic Directer for the Horton Dance Company where he choreographed as well as directed scenes and costume designs.
  • Formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 1958 but continued to choreograph for other companies.
  • Ailey’s signature works prominently reflects his Black pride.
  • Is credited for popularizing modern dance. 
  • Was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Feel free to add anyone I’ve missed!


Activists painted these statues at Stonewall to honor the historic trans women of color 

In an interview this month, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a black and trans woman who was part of the riots, made a call to action: “Let’s get together a group of people to redo those goddamn statues across from the original Stonewall.” Two Brooklyn activists were listening. In a statement, they explained why this isn’t an act of vandalism.


American activist, Stonewall veteran, mentor, leader, and symbolic mother and grandmother to many. Growing up in Chicago, she became involved early on with the local drag balls, and came out in her teens without having the language to describe being trans. She moved to New York City when her family kicked her out, and tried to make a place for herself in the queer community there. When the Stonewall Inn was raided in 1969, Miss Major was there meeting a friend. She joined in with the ensuing riots, was knocked unconscious by the police, and awoke the next morning in jail. She would return to prison in the early 70s, where, placed with the men, she met leaders of the recent Attica riots who would greatly influence her later work with the prison system. She moved to California in the late 70s, eventually settling in San Francisco, just as the AIDS epidemic hit. She quickly dedicated herself to that cause, hiring other trans women to help care for the sick, and starting the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center. In 2003, she joined the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project before becoming its executive director. She has spent her life looking out for the queer community, particularly trans women of color in the prison system, and has earned a reputation as a pioneer and adopted mother to many in the queer community.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a trans activist who has advocated throughout her life for transgender visibility and rights.

“We’ve got good hearts and we’re strong characters and we’re courageous people and we have a right to live and be here like everybody else does,” she says.

One of Miss Major’s most vocal battles has been with transgender inclusivity among the LGBTQ community, her frustration heightened by the erasure of their participation in major movements. Her own involvement in the Stonewall Riots was omitted from the recent film Stonewall, along with the contributions of her fellow trans women and men who partook in the violent uprising against police infiltrating their community.

“[They] need to wake up and realize that we aren’t going anywhere!” says Miss Major. “We’re still going to be there, we’re part of this fabric and without us the world wouldn’t be the same.”

In 2015, a documentary about her life (Major!) was released.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Stonewall riots recently and how the leaders of that movement were some serious real life superheroes. So, I drew Sylvia Riviera, Marsha P Johnson, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy fighting for justice!

Stormé DeLaverie. Marsha P. Johnson. Sylvia Rae Rivera. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. These are the women behind Stonewall. Remember their names. A cis white man did not throw the first brick.