IPR is featuring some of the many LGBTQ+ pioneers and modern-day heroes to celebrate Pride month.
Harvey Milk was a visionary civil and human rights leader. Milk became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was born in 1930 in Woodmere, New York to a small middle-class Jewish family.
While in college at New York State College for Teachers (now the State University of New York) in Albany, Milk penned a popular weekly student newspaper column where he began questioning issues of diversity and reflected on the lessons learned from the recently ended World War. He graduated in 1951 and enlisted in the Navy. Following his time in the Navy, Milk worked as a public school teacher on Long Island, as a stock analyst in New York City, and as a production associate for Broadway musicals. In late 1972, Milk moved to San Francisco and opened a camera store in the heart of the city’s growing gay community. A little more than a year after his arrival in the city, he declared his candidacy for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He lost that race but emerged from the campaign as a force to be reckoned with in local politics.
In 1975, his close friend and ally Mayor George Moscone, appointed him to the city’s Board of Permit Appeals, making Milk the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States. In 1977, he easily won his third bid and was inaugurated as a San Francisco City-County Supervisor in 1978. He was a powerful advocate for strong, safe neighborhoods, and pressured the mayor’s administration to improve services such as library services and community policing. In addition, he spoke out on issues for minority groups on state and national levels.
On November 27, 1978, Dan White, a disgruntled former city Supervisor, assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Milk knew the hatred that some held for him and left tapes to be read in the event of his assassination. One says, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
Harvey Milk Biography