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Biography of Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk's political career was a major catalysts for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) civil rights movement. Born in Woodmere, New York, on May 22, 1930, Milk had a conservative upbringing.  He began his career as an educator in New York state and then worked as a financial analyst on Wall Street in New York City.  Milk's political alliances began with the Republican party from whom he received support for many years.  During this time he kept his homosexuality a secret. But political changes in America along with his move to San Francisco in 1972 prompted him to express his queer identity and get involved in local and state politics,  Harvey Milk soon became one of the first openly gay men elected to office. 

Upon first moving to San Francisco, Milk and his parter, Scott Smith, opened up Castro Camera in the Castro District of San Francisco.  Milk shortly became well known and liked within this neighborhood. Everyone "from gay teens to little old ladies began coming into his store to talk about their problems, which Harvey loved trying to solve. He soon became the unofficial Mayor of Castro Street."[1] Because of his interest in community issues and his drive to solve them, Milk decided to run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1973. He lost, but continued to develop a love for campaigning. He ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1974 and lost again but this time with more support than ever.  

In 1975, Milk ran for Supervisor and won. This marked one of the most important wins for the LGBT community in history. One of Milk's biggest accomplishments as Supervisor was passing a gay rights ordinance and defeating Proposition 6 (also known as the Briggs Initiative), which would have banned openly gay and lesbian people from working in public schools.[2] During his tenure, Milk continued to encourage LGBT individuals and community members speak out, come out and get political because he believed that creating a visible lgbt community was the only way to reach social and civil equality.

On November 27, 1978, only a year after his ellection to Supervisor, Harvey Milk was assassinated by his colleage, Dan White.  White was also a San Francisco Supervisor but his political agenda continuously clashed with Milk's. In an effort to avoid the metal detectors, Dan White entered City Hall through a basement window.  That day he not only shot and killed Harvey Milk but also Mayor George Moscone.

Harvey Milk's legacy as an openly gay politician and a civil rights leader of the 1970's paved the way for many civil rights that the LGBT community enjoys today.  Harvey Milk was named one of the most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine and is an Icon in San Francisco, California and the larger LGBT community.

[1] De Jim, Strange.Images of America

[2] Equality California. Fact Sheet


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