Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930, to Jewish American parents in Woodmere, New York. He attended New York State College for Teachers before joining the U.S. Navy in 1951. The counterculture of the 1960s and Milk’s desire to be open about his sexuality drew him to San Francisco and in 1972 he permanently settled in the Castro neighborhood, where he opened Castro Camera. In 1973 Milk ran for City Supervisor but failed to receive an endorsement from the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club and lost the election. During the 1973 election Milk became known as the Mayor of Castro Street, a nickname that he utilized for the rest of his career. In 1974 Milk organized the Castro Street Fair and Castro Village Association, aligning himself with local business owners and labor organizers before running for City Supervisor again in 1975. He lost the election but was appointed to the Board of Permit Appeals by Mayor George Moscone. In 1976 Milk lost an election for California State Assembly and co-founded the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club to help organize future campaigns.   

In 1977 Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, earning him a national platform as one of the first openly gay men to win an election for public office in the United States. He played a leading role in the Coors boycott movement of the 1970s and the initial planning for the 1979 March on Washington. In 1978 he sponsored San Francisco’s gay rights ordinance, which passed 10-1, and was a vocal advocate against California’s anti-gay Proposition 6, commonly referred to as the Briggs Initiative. Milk and Moscone were assassinated by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White on November 27, 1978; White was convicted of manslaughter and received a seven-year sentence; LGBT community outrage about the lenient sentence led to the White Night Riots in May 1979. In 2009, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama and the California State Legislature designated May 22 “Harvey Milk Day.” Milk’s campaign manager and LGBTQ+ activist Anne Kroneberger and Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk created the Harvey Milk Foundation in 2009. To learn more about Harvey Milk's life and legacy, see Out and Elected in the USA by Ron Schlitter.