You Should Know Their Names - Gladys Bentley

Do you know the name Gladys Bentley? In the early twentieth century, Harlem was home to many emerging Black artists, from authors like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston to jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. With so many big names in this center of African American culture, it’s easy for lesser known trailblazers to slip through the cracks of history - trailblazers like the bisexual, genderbending blues singer Gladys Bentley.

Gladys Bentley paved the way for many modern artists, from Janelle Monae to Megan Thee Stallion. She was an unapologetic gay Black women who stood her ground in her music and performance art, shaking up the Harlem Renaissance scene with her bold expressions of gender and sexuality. Though she felt the need to change with the times later in life, her initial strides forward in American culture cannot be forgotten; she challenged rigid gender norms and old-fashioned notions of sexuality and dared others to do the same.

Creds Laura Babiak

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