Mabel Hampton Unashamed

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Mabel Hampton Unashamed

I thought that I could kick off this year's Black History Month with one of the people that showed me never to be ashamed of my skin color or how I expressed myself. Mabel Hampton is one of those heros. She caught my attention when I read her words: "I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for eighty-two years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people."

Mabel Hampton

The 1920 were a decade of freedom but also of imprisonment for her. Hampton moved to New York after her first love died during childbirth during the Harlem Renaissance. She found work as a dancer at a Coney Island dance company. She also performed at Lafayette Theater and danced at the Garden of Joy.

Before Hampton's career really took off, the unabashed soon-to-be activist was sent to Bedford Hills Reformatory for Women after being sentenced to three years for prostitution. Her sentence was eventually cut to 18 months.

I read about her time at Bedford Hills in Estells Freedman's book, Their Sister Keepers: Women's Prison Reform in America. It gave me an insight into her life while she was in prison and the conditions there. She spent less than two years at Bedford Hills, but I believe it shaped her and propelled her into a life of activism.

Her outspoken and sassy way of going about things helped me be less ashamed of who I was and what I was becoming and allowed me to embrace my identity. While our respective roads to self-discovery were very different, her mistakes, words, forwardness and compassion helped me love myself just a little bit more.

Besides her activism both on behalf of lesbians and blacks during the Harlem Renaissance (and beyond), she was a huge contributor to The Lesbian Herstory Archives by documenting what she saw during the Harlem Renaissance.

Hampton's legacy spans over decades where African Americans were seeing an abundance of growth. She lived through the Roaring 20's and the Great Depression, and she saw the Black Civil Rights movement though to the end. I have no doubt that if she was still alive she would be right here in the mix trying to advance our LGBT rights.



Comments [7]

patricia's picture

great piece!

"...her mistakes, words, forwardness and compassion helped me love myself just a little bit more."
--profoundly empowering

Laniaya Alesia's picture

Thanks. She is a powerful

Thanks. She is a powerful woman.

Skribble's picture

Insightful.

I legitly had no idea... but now I do! This was a great piece to read! Are you taking requests? If you are, I want more blogs like this! Much love.

Conlite's picture

The Black History not being

The Black History not being told in classrooms - I love it!

Jess Glenny's picture

Inspirational.

Thanks.

Grace Moon's picture

Nice peice.

Nice peice.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Marcie Bianco's picture

mabel hampton, i hardly knew

mabel hampton, i hardly knew ye! but now, thanks to laniaya, imma do some mad research on your AWESOME self!

holy crap, what an amazing woman! i need to go to the herstory archives.