Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on May 2, 1902, Hampton was only two months old when her mother died. She was then raised by her grandmother, who died when Hampton was seven years old.
In 1909, the seven-year-old Hampton was put on a train to New York City, where she went to live with her aunt and uncle. Within a year Hampton ran away from that home, having been raped by her uncle and treated poorly by the family.
From ages eight to 17, Hampton lived with a white family in New Jersey; during that time, she was wrongfully imprisoned for prostitution. Eventually, she found work as a dancer in an all-women's dance troupe on Coney Island, New York.
In the 1920s, Hampton danced in all-black productions for Harlem Renaissance notables, including Jackie "Moms" Mabley. This artistic, political and cultural milieu provided Hampton access to other dancers, artists, and gays and lesbians.
As dance work declined, Hampton left the chorus lines. As quoted by Erin Sexton-Sayler, Hampton explained, "I like to eat." At this point, Hampton began what was to be her longest career: a cleaning woman for white families in New York City. The daughter of one of these families went on to found the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City.
Mabel Hampton (May 2, 1902 - October 26, 1989) was an American lesbian activist, a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance, and a philanthropist for both black and lesbian/gay organizations. Mabel Hampton enjoyed a romantic and sexual relationship with Lillian Foster, whom Hampton met in 1932. The two remained a couple until Foster's death in 1978. Hampton volunteered for the New York Defense Recreation Committee (1943); she collected cigarettes and refreshments for American World War II soldiers.
Mabel Hampton enjoyed a romantic and sexual relationship with Lillian Foster, whom Hampton met in 1932. The two remained a couple until Foster's death in 1978. Along with her lesbian contemporaries, Hampton volunteered for the New York Defense Recreation Committee (1943); as part of this committee, she collected cigarettes and refreshments for American World War II soldiers. (Picture: Mabel Hampton with Lillian Foster)
With only her working-class income, Hampton managed to attend performances of the Negro Opera Company, as well as to contribute to the Martin Luther King Memorial Fund and, later, to gay and lesbian organizations.
In addition to her financial contributions to gay and lesbian organizations, Hampton marched in the first National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, and she appeared in the films Silent Pioneers and Before Stonewall. In 1984, Hampton spoke before thousands of onlookers at New York City Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade in 1984; there, she said, "I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for 82 years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people."
Moreover, she has left a legacy of invaluable archival materials to the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Throughout her career and adult life in New York, Hampton collected memorabilia, ephemera, letters, and other records documenting her history, providing a window into the lives of black women and lesbians during the Harlem Renaissance.
Mabel Hampton by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123948)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular
Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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