Black History Month Profile: Marsha P. Johnson

In honor of Black History Month, it’s time to bring up the many black trailblazers and activists that have changed and shaped life for us today.

One of these many activists is named Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was a black trans woman and LGBTQ+ activist.

Marsha was the main instigator for the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. The Stonewall Riots, also known as the Stonewall Uprisings, was a series of demonstrations in response to New York Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club. The raid caused bar patrons and the neighborhood to riot as they saw police arrest and bring multiple employees and other patrons out of the bar. This led to a long and tiring six days of protests and violent breakouts with law enforcement outside the Stonewall Inn. However, the riots are seen as a moment of empowerment and strength for the LGBTQ+ community.

With the help of another trans activist, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). They provided shelter to homeless LGBTQ+ people in 4 areas, New York City, Chicago, California, and New England, in the early ’70s. Unfortunately, they disbanded months later.

Unfortunately, on July 6, 1992, Marsha’s body was found floating in the Hudson River. It was ruled as a suicide by the police, but friends and family believe there was something more since they claimed that she wasn’t suicidal.

While Marsha is gone, her work and dedication to helping LGBTQ+ people are still felt throughout the entire community. Without her or her commitment, life for black LGBTQ+ people would not be the same it is today.

Sources contributing to this story:

Marsha P. Johnson – Stonewall, Quotes & Documentary – Biography 

Stonewall riots – Wikipedia 

Life Story: Marsha P. Johnson – Women & the American Story (nyhistory.org)