The first drag queen and LGBT rights pioneer was a former slave

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07/20/2020

While some still argue that homosexuality is a western import brought to African shores through movies, books, and other means, history shows that one of our most fabulous “exports” was the first drag queen and LGBT rights pioneer in America who was known as William Dorsey Swann to many but known as the queen to his friends. William Dorsey Swann was born into slavery circa 1858. He was the property of a white woman named Ann Murray and was living on her plantation in Hancock, Washington County, Maryland, when Union soldiers marched through in the winter of 1862 and set free slaves after the emancipation proclamation went into effect. During the 1880s and 1890s, Swann put together a series of balls in Washington DC and most of the attendees of Swann’s gatherings were men who were once slaves, and were gathering to dance in their fancy dresses.

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