February 21st People

February 21st

02-21-1936 – 01-17-1996 Barbara Jordan – Born in Houston, Texas. She was an American politician and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern black female elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. Jordan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Upon her death, she became the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery. She had a 30 year relationship with Nancy Earl. Jordan never publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation, but in her obituary, the “Houston Chronicle” mentioned her long relationship with Earl.

02-21-1940 – 07-17-2020   John Lewis – Born near Troy, Alabama. He was an American politician, statesman, and civil rights activist and leader. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. Lewis was an outspoken champion of LGBT rights during a time when it had little public support. While in Congress, he co-sponsored more than a dozen bills to advance and protect rights for the LGBT community. In 1996, Lewis delivered an impassioned speech against DOMA on the floor of the house. Lewis wrote, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.” He also chastised those who called for same-sex couples to be joined in unions, but not in marriage. “We have been down that road before in this country. Separate is not equal,” he wrote. “Our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans.” The hearse carrying Rep. John Lewis stopped by Atlanta’s rainbow crosswalks in remembrance of his embrace of LGBT equality. 

02-21-1933 — 04-21-2003   Nina Simone (b. Eunice Kathleen Waymon) – Born in Tryon, North Carolina. She was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. With the help of a few supporters in her hometown, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well received audition, which she attributed to racism. Simone started to play in nightclubs to make a living and that is when she used the name Nina Simone so that her family members wouldn’t know that she chose to play “the devil’s music” or what was known as piano cocktail music. She went on to record more that 40 albums between 1958 and 1974. In the late 1980s she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Simone had a large gay following. She was bisexual and hung out at a lesbian bar in New York City called Trude Heller’s. By the end of her life she was world famous. In 2018, Simone was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, in 2019, her song that addressed racial inequality in United States, Mississippi Goddam, was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Two days before her death, Simone learned she would be awarded an honorary degree by the Curtis Institute of Music. She suffered from breast cancer for several years before she died in her sleep at her home in France. 

02-21-1943 David Geffen – Born in Borough Park, New York City, New York. He is an American record executive, film studio executive and producer, theatrical producer, and philanthropist. He is one of three founders of Dream Works Studio. Geffen is a prominent philanthropist. He supports medical research, AIDS organizations, the arts, and theatre. In 1995 he donated $5 million towards UCLA’s Westwood Playhouse. The theatre was renamed the Geffen Playhouse. In 2002, he announced a $200 million unrestricted endowment for the School of Medicine at UCLA. On December 13, 2012, UCLA announced that Geffen had donated another $100 million in addition to his $200 million. His donation is the largest ever made to a medical school in the United States. His gift funds the full cost of attendance for up to 30 students per year, beginning with the Class of 2017.

02-21-1907 – 09-29-1973 W. H. Auden – Born in York, England. He was an Anglo-American poet, in 1946 he became an American citizen. Many critics regard him as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Auden first met Christopher Isherwood at his first boarding school, St. Edmund’s School, in Hindhead, Surrey. He was reintroduced in Isherwood in 1925 by a fellow student. Auden probably fell in love with Isherwood, and in the 1930s they maintained a sexual relationship in intervals between their flings with others. Between 1935 and 1939 they collaborated on three plays and a travel book. Around 1939, Auden met the poet Chester Kallman, who became his lover. In 1941 Kallman ended their relationship because he couldn’t accept Auden’s insistence on a mutual faithful relationship, but he and Auden remained companions for the rest of Auden’s life, sharing houses and apartments from 1953 until Auden’s death. Auden dedicated both editions of his collected poetry (1945 and 1966) to Isherwood and Kallman. He summarized his emotional life in a famous couplet: “If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me.”

02-21-1956   Victoria Brownworth – American journalist, writer, and editor. She was the first AIDS columnist for SPIN magazine, the first lesbian columnist in a daily newspaper, and the first journalist to write about women and AIDS and pediatric AIDS in the country. A Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Brownworth is the first out lesbian to have a column in a daily newspaper. She is the author of more than 20 books. Her novella, Ordinary Mayhem, was awarded Honorable Mention in Best Horror 2012. She is an advocate against sex trafficking and for LGBT issues.

02-21-1960   Isaac Julien – Born East End of London, England. He is a British filmmaker and a professor. His 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston won the Teddy Award for Best Short Film at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 1991 he won the Semaine de la Critique Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Young Soul Rebels. Julien joined US Santa Cruz as a distinguished professor of the arts in 2018. He is also a patron of the Live Art Development Agency. Julien is openly gay.

02-21-1987 Elliot Page – Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He is a Canadian actor and starred in the film Juno and other major films. Page has won more that 25 awards, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA for Juno. He describes himself as a Pro-choice feminist and is also a vegetarian. On February 14, 2014, Page came out as gay in a speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference. In 2018, Page announced his marriage to dancer and choreographer Emma Portner. In December 2020 Page came out as transgendered. 

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