“Without knowing, understanding and embracing our past. We can not move forward in the future….”
Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and served 11 months in office.
On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back. White was unstable and highly homophobic. Milk’s election was made possible by and was a key component of a shift in San Francisco politics. The assassinations and the ensuing events were the result of continuing ideological conflicts in the city.
In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay rights movement stating “he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction”. Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk accepted for his uncle. Not long after that, Stuart co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation with Anne Kronenberg with the support of Desmond Tutu, co-recipient of 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom and now a member of the Foundation’s Advisory Board.
In late 2009 then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger designated May 22 as “Harvey Milk Day”, and inducted Milk in the California Hall of Fame. The Harvey Milk Foundation began coordinating global recognition and celebration of Harvey Milk Day. Harry Britt summarized Milk’s impact the evening Milk was shot in 1978: “No matter what the world has taught us about ourselves, we can be beautiful and we can get our thing together … Harvey was a prophet … he lived by a vision … Something very special is going to happen in this city and it will have Harvey Milk’s name on it.”
Watch the TMC companion piece to the Oscar-winning documentary film about the life and career of San Francisco’s first openly gay man to be elected to office and the greatest gay rights leader in LGBT history, Harvey Milk Directed by Rob Epstein. and Narrated by Harvey Fierstein
You can watch the Documentary: The Times of Harvey Milk – A Regular Guy @ TCM.com