october-2000

JULY 23: Ruth Ellis (1899-2000)

Ruth Ellis, the LGBT rights activist and oldest known lesbian to ever live, was born on this day in 1899 and would have turned 118-years-old today!

Ruth Ellis poses for the camera as she leans against a car in 1951 (x). 

Ruth was born on July 23, 1899 in Springfield, Illinois as her parents fourth child and first daughter. Her mother and father, Charles and Carrie Ellis, were former slaves from Tennessee but the abolition of slavery allowed them to move north and build a prosperous life for themselves and their family. Ruth’s mother died when she was young, but her father became the first black mail carrier in the state of Illinois and managed to put three of his children, Ruth included, through high school. Ruth would graduate from Springfield High School in 1919.

Ruth came out to her family as a lesbian when she was just 16-years-old, which was an unheard-of admittance in 1915! She would also recall meeting her partner, Babe, just five years later in 1920. For the next 30 years, Ruth and Babe would live together in Detroit, Michigan, where their home eventually became a major hub for the city’s black gay and lesbian community. Ruth also became the first black woman to ever operate her own printing company in the whole city of Detroit; the business specialized in printing stationary, fliers, and posters, and was operated out of her and Babe’s home.

Ruth is photographed hard at work operating the printing press that fueled her successful small business (x). 

Ruth and Babe eventually separated because, as Ruth said, “We were just two opposite people.” Although the refuge of Ruth and Babe’s home ceased to exist, Ruth remained incredibly involved in the LGBT community and reached somewhat of a celebrity status in the 1970s. She became noticed as a frequent attendee of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and eventually began being asked to speak at different universities around the country about her experience as an out lesbian in the pre-Stonewall days. Her 100th birthday was celebrated with the release of the documentary Living with Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100 and that same year Ruth was the honorary leader of the San Francisco Dyke March.

A special photo shoot to celebrate Ruth’s 100th birthday shows her smiling sweetly and holding a bouquet of flowers (x). 

Ruth passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 6, 2000 when she was 101-years-old. The Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit continues to be operated in her memory and is one of only four American organizations specifically dedicated to housing LGBT youth.

-LC

Sorry, I just found this …. so next year … 

but take a look …  and then ask yourself, 

if I turned my life into a memoir, 

Could it be on this list of life changing books?

NATIONAL BANNED BOOKS WEEK 

SEPTEMBER 27 - OCTOBER 3, 2015

Challenged and Banned Books by and about African Americans

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

1983 – 2009—Over thirty-five challenges in twenty states since the book’s publication.

2009—Challenged in the Newman-Crows Landing School District on a required reading list presented by the Orestimba High English Department.  A trustee questioned the qualifications of Orestimba staff to teach a novel depicting African American culture.  (CA)

A Hero Ain’t Nothin But a Sandwich by Alice Childress

1976 – 1994—Challenged five times in five states.  (NY, GA, TX, MD, SC)

1976—Removed from Island Trees School Union Free District High School library along with nine other titles because they were considered “immoral, anti-American, anti-Christian, or just plain filthy.”  (NY)

Rainbow Jordan by Alice Childress

1986—Challenged at the Gwinnett County public schools because of “foul language and sexual references.”  (GA)

1986—Banned from Spokane middle schools because the book’s storyline about a prostitute’s daughter was “too mature.”  (WA)

My House by Nikki Giovanni

1992—Challenged by the Duval County public school libraries because it contains the word “nigger” and was accused of containing excessive vulgarity, racism, and sex.  (FL)

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

1979—Responding to criticism from an anti-pornography organization, the Ogden School District restricted circulation of Hansberry’s play.  (UT)

Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron

1998—Challenged in Brooklyn because it was considered racially insensitive.  (NY)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

1997—Challenged for sexual explicitness, but retained on the Stonewall Jackson High School’s academically advanced reading list in Brentsville.  A parent objected to the novel’s language and sexual explicitness.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

1995 – 2007—Challenged seven times in six states since its publication.  (FL, TX, ME, IL, ID, & KY)

2007—Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene School District.  Some parents say the book along with five others should require parental permission for students to read them.  (ID)

2013—Parent wants the book removed because she believes it depicts scenes of bestiality, gang rape and an infant’s gruesome murder, content she believes could be too intense for teenage readers.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

1994 – 2007—Challenged eleven times in nine states since publication.  (AK, PA, FL, MA, MD, NH, CA, CO, MI)

2005—Banned from the Littleton curriculum and library shelves after complaints about its explicit sex, including the rape of an eleven-year-old girl by her father.  (CO)

2013— The board of education president in Ohio is criticizing the inclusion of the book on the Common Core Standard’s recommended reading list for 11th-graders, labeling the controversial work “pornographic,” and wishes to ban it from the classroom.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

1993 – 2009—Challenged in five states due to its sexually explicitly language.  (OH, GA, FL, MD, MI)

1998—Removed from the St. Mary’s County Schools’ approved text list by the school superintendent overruling a faculty committee recommendation.  Complaints referred to the novel as “filth,” “trash,” and “repulsive.”  (MD)

Sula by Toni Morrison

2000—Challenged on the Poolesville High School reading list because of the book’s sexual content and language.  On October 5, 2000, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Paul McGuckian dismissed the bid to band the work from the curriculum.  The school, however, decided to remove the book from the summer reading list.  (MD)


Push by Sapphire

2005—Challenged, but retained at Fayetteville High School despite a parent’s complaint that it was sexually explicit.  The complainant also submitted a list of more than fifty books, citing the books as too sexually explicit and promoting homosexuality.  (AL)