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The Life and Legacy of Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk

Harvey Bernard Milk was born on 22nd May 1930 in the New York City suburb of Woodmere to William Milk and Minerva Karns. Harvey and his brother, Robert, worked in the family’s department store, “Milk’s Dry Goods”, which became the largest department store on Long Island.

They were a smallish middle-class Jewish family that had established a Jewish synagogue and were well known in the New York “Litvaks” neighbourhood for their civic engagement. 

He was quick-witted, which made him popular among classmates, and he played football and basketball at high school. Milk graduated from Bay Shore High School in 1947 and attended New York State College for Teachers (now known as the State University of New York at Albany) from 1947 to 1951, majoring in mathematics. One classmate remembered, “He was never thought of as a possible queer—that’s what you called them then—he was a man’s man”.

Although he came out as gay while he was a child, Milk kept his sexual relationships secret until he was a young adult.

Harvey Milk in the Navy and Work

After graduation, Milk joined the United States Navy during the Korean War. In 1955, he resigned from the Navy at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade. He was forced to accept an “other than honorable” discharge and resign from the service instead of facing a court-martial because of his homosexuality.

In 1956, he met Joe Campbell at the Jacob Riis Park beach, a favoured area for gay men in Queens and pursued him passionately. After they moved in together, Milk wrote Campbell romantic notes and poems. Growing bored with their New York lives, they decided to move to Dallas, Texas, but they were unhappy and soon moved back to New York, where Milk worked as a statistician at an insurance business. Campbell and Milk separated after almost six years; it would be his longest relationship.

He thought of moving to Miami to marry a lesbian friend to “have a front, and each would not be in the way of the other”. However, he decided to remain in New York, secretly pursuing gay relationships. In 1962, Milk became involved with Craig Rodwell, who was ten years younger than him.

Though Milk wooed Rodwell ardently, waking him every morning with a call and sending him notes, Milk was uneasy with Rodwell’s involvement with the New York Mattachine Society, a gay-rights organisation. When Rodwell was arrested for walking in Riis Park and charged with instigating a riot and with indecent exposure (the law required men’s swimsuits to start from above the navel and ends below the thigh), he spent three days in jail. The relationship soon ended as Milk became frightened at Rodwell’s disposition to agitate the police.

He started a romantic relationship with Jack Galen McKinley and recruited him to work on conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. It was not a healthy relationship, though; when McKinley first began his relationship with Milk in late 1964, McKinley was 17 or 18 years old. He was prone to depression and occasionally threatened suicide if Milk did not show him sufficient attention. To make a point to McKinley, Milk took him to the hospital where Milk’s ex-lover, Joe Campbell, was also recovering from a suicide attempt after his lover left him.

Arrival in the Castro District

San Francisco had been home to a growing number of gay men since the end of WW2 who had all been ousted from the military. They had decided to stay in the area rather than return to their hometowns and face ostracism. By 1969, San Francisco had more gay people per capita than any other American city, including Milk and McKinley. The city appealed to Milk so much that he decided to stay even after breaking up with McKinley. In 1970, increasingly frustrated with the political atmosphere after the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, Milk grew out his hair. When told to cut it, he refused and was fired.

Milk met Scott Smith, 18 years younger than him, and they began a relationship together. They lived in San Francisco on the funds they had both saved. In March 1973, after a roll of film Milk left at a local shop was ruined, he and Smith opened a camera store on Castro Street with their last $1,000.


Growing Issues with Politics

In the late 1960s, the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) and the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) began to work against police persecution of gay bars and entrapment in San Francisco. It is significant to know that oral sex was still a felony, and in 1970, nearly 90 people in the city were arrested for having sex in public parks at night.

Mayor Alioto asked the police to target the parks, hoping the decision would appeal to the Archdiocese and his Catholic supporters. In 1971, 2,800 gay men were arrested for public sex in San Francisco. Any arrest for a morals charge required registration as a sex offender.

Milk became more interested in political and civic issues when faced with problems and policies he disliked. One day in 1973, a state official entered Milk’s shop Castro Camera and informed him that he owed $100 as a deposit against state sales tax.

Milk was sceptical and traded shouts with the man about the rights of business owners; after he complained for weeks at state offices, they lowered the deposit to $30. Milk raged about government priorities when a teacher came into his store to borrow a projector because the equipment in the schools did not function. Milk decided that the time had come to run for City Supervisor. He said later, “I finally reached the point where I knew I had to become involved or shut up”.

Running Political Campaigns

Milk received a frosty reception from the gay political institution in San Francisco. Jim Foster, active in gay politics for ten years, resented that the rookie had asked for his blessing for a prestigious City Supervisor position. Milk was furious that Foster had overlooked him for the role, and the conversation marked the beginning of a contentious relationship between them. Some gay bar owners, still combating police harassment and unhappy with what they saw as a shy approach by others, decided to endorse Milk.

Harvey Milk was a “born politician”, although at first, his inexperience showed. He tried to do without money, support, or staff and instead leaned on his message of proper financial management. He also ran on a culturally liberal platform, fighting government interference in private sexual matters and favouring the legalisation of marijuana. Milk’s passionate, flamboyant speeches and savvy media skills earned him considerable press during the 1973 election. He achieved 16,900 votes—sweeping the Castro District and other liberal neighbourhoods and came in 10th place out of 32 contenders.

Milk found a solid political ally in organised labour, and it was during this time he was styled “The Mayor of Castro Street”. As Castro Street’s presence grew, so did Milk’s stature. Tom O’Horgan remarked, “Harvey spent most of his life looking for a stage. On Castro Street, he finally found it.”

Pressures were growing between the older citizens of the Most Holy Redeemer Parish and the gays entering the Castro District. In 1973, two gay men tried to open an antique shop, but the Eureka Valley Merchants Association (EVMA) attempted to stop them from obtaining a business license. Milk and a few other gay business owners founded the Castro Village Association, with Milk as President.

He often reiterated his philosophy that gays should buy from gay businesses. Milk organised the Castro Street Fair in 1974 to draw more shoppers to the area. More than 5,000 attended, and some of the EVMA members were astonished; they did more business at the Castro Street Fair than on any previous day.

harvey milk celebrates

Growing Popularity in the Community

Although he was a newcomer to the Castro District, Milk had shown leadership in the small community. He was taken seriously as a candidate and chose to run again for City Supervisor in 1975. He reconsidered his approach, cut his long hair, swore off marijuana, and never visited another gay bathhouse again.

Castro Camera became the centre of activity in the neighbourhood. Milk would often pull people off the street to work his campaigns—many realised later that they just happened to be the type of men Milk found attractive.

Milk favoured support for small businesses and the growth of communities. Since 1968, Mayor Alioto lured large enterprises to the city despite what critics labelled “the Manhattanization of San Francisco”.

In 1975, state senator George Moscone was elected mayor. Moscone had been instrumental in abolishing the sodomy law earlier that year in the California State Legislature. He recognised Milk’s impact in his election by visiting Milk’s election night headquarters, thanking Milk personally, and offering him a job as a City Commissioner. Milk came in seventh place in the election, only one position away from earning a supervisor seat.

Presidential Assassination Attempt and The Outing of Oliver Sipple

Milk’s role as a spokesperson for San Francisco’s gay community developed during this period. While visiting San Francisco on 22nd September 1975, President Gerald Ford walked from his hotel to his car. In the crowd, Sara Jane Moore raised a gun to shoot him. A former Marine walking by seized her arm as the gun subsequently discharged towards the pavement instead. The former Marine was Oliver “Bill” Sipple, who had left Milk’s ex-lover Joe Campbell years before, which led to Campbell’s suicide attempt. The national limelight was on him instantly. On psychiatric disability leave from the military, Sipple refused to call himself a hero and did not want his sexuality revealed.

Milk, however, took advantage of the chance to demonstrate his opinion that public perception of gay people would be improved if more people came out of the closet. He told a friend: “It’s too good an opportunity. For once, we can show that gays do heroic things, not just all that ca-ca about molesting children and hanging out in bathrooms.” Milk reached out to a newspaper.

Several days later, Herb Caen, a columnist at The San Francisco Chronicle, exposed Sipple as gay and a friend of Harvey Milk’s. Time magazine named Milk as a leader in San Francisco’s gay community, and Sipple and his family were surrounded by reporters. His mother, a stubborn Baptist in Detroit, refused to speak to him. Although he had been involved with the gay community for years, even partaking in Gay Pride events, Sipple sued the Chronicle for the invasion of his privacy.

President Ford sent Sipple a message of thanks for saving his life. Milk said that Sipple’s sexual orientation was why he only received a note rather than an invitation to the White House.

Appointment to State Assembly

Keeping his promise to Milk, recently elected Mayor George Moscone appointed him to the Board of Permit Appeals in 1976, making him the first openly gay City Commissioner in the United States. Milk contemplated pursuing a position in the California State Assembly. The district was weighted heavily in his favour, as much of it was based in neighbourhoods surrounding Castro Street. He knew he stood a chance as in the last race for Supervisor, Milk had obtained more votes than the currently seated assemblyman.

Milk spent five weeks on the Board of Permit Appeals before Moscone had to fire him when he declared he would run for the California State Assembly.

harvey milk supervisor

Milk’s continuing campaign, run from the storefront of Castro Camera, was a study in disorganisation. Although the elder Irish grandmothers and gay men who volunteered were plentiful and happy to send out mass mailings, Milk’s memos and volunteer notes were kept on scrap papers. The campaign manager’s assistant was an 11-year-old girl from the local neighbourhood.

Milk himself was hyperactive and inclined to extraordinary outbursts of temper, only to recover quickly and cry excitedly about something else. He directed many of his rants at his lover, Scott Smith, who was becoming disappointed with the man who was no longer the laid-back hippie he had fallen in love with.

He circulated his campaign literature anywhere he could, including one of the most influential political groups in the city, the Peoples Temple. Milk even allowed Temple volunteers to work his phones. On 19th February 1978, Milk wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter supporting cult leader Jim Jones as “a man of the highest character” when asked.

The race for State Assembly was close, and Milk lost by fewer than 4,000 votes. Milk co-founded the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club in the wake of his loss.

In November 1976, voters in San Francisco chose to reorganise Supervisor elections to choose supervisors from neighbourhoods instead of voting for them in citywide polls. Harvey Milk quickly became the leading nominee in District 5, surrounding Castro Street.

Final Public Campaigns

Anita Bryant’s public campaign resisting homosexuality and the multiple challenges to gay rights regulations across the United States fueled gay politics in San Francisco. Seventeen hopefuls from the Castro District joined the next race for supervisor; more than half of them were gay. The New York Times ran an exposé on the supposed invasion of gay people into San Francisco, calculating that the city’s gay residents were between 100,000 and 200,000 out of a total 750,000. The Castro Village Association had now grown to 90 businesses.

Milk’s most successful competitor was the calm and considerate lawyer Rick Stokes, backed by the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club. Stokes had been forthcoming about his homosexuality long before Milk had and experienced more extreme treatment, once hospitalised and forced to undergo electroshock treatment to ‘cure’ him.

Milk, nevertheless, was more passionate about the role of gay people and their problems in San Francisco politics. Stokes was quoted saying, “I’m just a businessman who happens to be gay,” and voiced the opinion that any average person could also be homosexual. Milk’s countering philosophy was relayed to The New York Times:

"We don’t want sympathetic liberals, we want gays to represent gays ... I represent the gay street people—the 14-year-old runaway from San Antonio. We have to make up for hundreds of years of persecution. We have to give hope to that poor runaway kid from San Antonio. They go to the bars because churches are hostile. They need hope! They need a piece of the pie!"

Other causes were also meaningful to Milk: he promoted bigger and less costly child care facilities, free public transport, and the development of a board of civilians to supervise the police. He progressed critical neighbourhood matters at every possibility. Milk used the same manic campaign tactics as in previous races: human billboards, hours of handshaking, and dozens of addresses calling upon gay people to have hope. This time, even The San Francisco Chronicle endorsed him for supervisor.

On election day, 8th November 1977, he won by 30% against sixteen other candidates. After his win became clear, he arrived on Castro Street on the back of his campaign manager’s motorcycle to what a newspaper report characterised as a “tumultuous and moving welcome”.

Milk had lately taken a new lover, a young man named Jack Lira, who was often drunk in public and frequently chaperoned out of political events by Milk’s associates. Since the California State Assembly race, Milk received increasingly violent death threats. Distressed that his increased profile marked him as a target for assassination, he documented on tape his thoughts.

He clarified who he wanted to succeed him if he were killed, adding:

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door”

Milk’s Role as Supervisor

Milk’s swearing-in made nationwide headlines, as he became the first non-incumbent openly gay man in the United States to win an election for public office. He walked to City Hall arm in arm with Jack Lira, remarking, “You can stand around and throw bricks at Silly Hall, or you can take it over. Well, here we are.”

Harvey Milk’s energy, an affinity for pranking, and unpredictability were known to irritate Board of Supervisors President Dianne Feinstein. In his first engagement with Mayor Moscone, Milk called himself the “number one queen” and made clear to Moscone that he would have to go through Milk instead of the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club if he wanted the city’s gay votes—a quarter of San Francisco’s voting population.

Milk started his term by supporting a civil rights bill that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to The New York Times, the law was called the “most stringent and encompassing in the nation”, and its passing illustrated “the growing political power of homosexuals”.

Milk had grown weary of Lira’s drinking and contemplated breaking up when Lira called a few weeks later and demanded that Milk come home. When Milk arrived, he found Lira had hanged himself. Already inclined to extreme depression, Lira had attempted suicide previously. One of the notes he left for Milk revealed he was resentful about the Anita Bryant and John Briggs campaigns.

Briggs Initiative

Proposition 6 was dubbed the Briggs Initiative. The proposed law would have made firing gay teachers and public school workers who supported gay rights mandatory. Briggs’ statements supporting Proposition 6 were widespread throughout California, and Harvey Milk attended every event Briggs hosted. Milk campaigned against the bill throughout the state and vowed that even if Briggs won California, he would not win San Francisco.

In their multiple debates, which became quick back-and-forth banter, Briggs argued that homosexual teachers wanted to abuse and recruit children. Milk replied with statistics gathered by law enforcement that supplied evidence that paedophiles mainly identified as heterosexual and dismissed Briggs’ claims with one-liner jokes: “If it were true that children mimicked their teachers, you’d sure have a helluva lot more nuns running around.”

harvey milk speaking

Attendance at Gay Pride marches during the summer of 1978 in Los Angeles and San Francisco soared. An estimated 250,000 to 375,000 attended San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade. Milk gave a rendition of what became his most famous speech, the “Hope Speech”, that The San Francisco Examiner said “ignited the crowd”:

“On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country … We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”


On 10th November 1978 (10 months after being sworn in), Dan White surrendered his place on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, declaring that his annual salary of $9,600 was not enough to support his family. Within days, White asked that his resignation be withdrawn, and he asked to be reinstated, to which Mayor Moscone originally agreed. However, involvement by other supervisors persuaded Moscone to select someone more in line with the growing ethnic diversity of White’s district and the liberal leanings of the Board of Supervisors.

Moscone intended to reveal White’s replacement on 27th November 1978. Enraged by this, half an hour before the press conference, White dodged metal detectors by entering City Hall through a basement window and went to Moscone’s office, armed with a .38 revolver. Eyewitnesses heard shouting followed by gunshots. White shot Moscone in the shoulder and chest, then twice in the head.

White then quickly strode to his former office, reloading his police-issue revolver with hollow-point bullets along the way, and found Harvey Milk, asking him to come inside for a moment. Dianne Feinstein heard gunshots and called police, then saw Milk face down on the floor, shot five times, including twice in the head.

Shortly afterwards, she disclosed to the press, “Today, San Francisco has experienced a double tragedy of immense proportions. As President of the Board of Supervisors, it is my duty to inform you that both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed, and the suspect is Supervisor Dan White.” Milk was 48 years old. Moscone was 49.

White called his wife from a nearby diner; she met him at a church and was with him when he turned himself in. Many people left flowers on the steps of City Hall, and that evening 25,000 to 40,000 people formed an impromptu candlelight march from Castro Street to City Hall. The next day, the bodies of Moscone and Milk were brought to City Hall, where mourners paid their respects. Six thousand grievers attended a service for Mayor Moscone at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Two memorials were held for Milk; a small one at Temple Emanu-El and a wild one at the Opera House.

San Francisco: A "City in agony"

His nephew, Stuart Milk, a teenager and close with his uncle, came out, along with myriad others across the nation, on the day his uncle was killed. Soon after Milk’s death, individuals marching for gay rights in Washington, D.C., chanted, “Harvey Milk lives!”

Governor Jerry Brown mandated that all flags in California be flown at half-mast and dubbed Milk a “hard-working and dedicated supervisor, a leader of San Francisco’s gay community, who kept his promise to represent all his constituents”.

President Jimmy Carter conveyed his shock at both murders and sent his condolences. Speaker of the California Assembly Leo McCarthy called it “an insane tragedy”.

“A City in Agony” topped the headlines in The San Francisco Examiner the day after the murders. An editorial describing “A city with more sadness and despair in its heart than any city should have to bear” went on to ask how such tragedies could occur, specifically to “men of such warmth and vision and great energies”.

Dan White was charged with two counts of murder and held without bail. He was eligible for the death penalty due to the recent passing of a statewide proposal that authorised death or life in prison for the murder of a public official.

When Milk’s friends looked in his closet for a suit for his coffin, they realised how much the recent drop in his income had impacted him as a supervisor. His clothes were coming apart, and all of his socks had holes.

His remains were cremated, and his ashes were split. His closest friends sprinkled most of the ashes in San Francisco Bay. Other ashes were encased and buried underneath the sidewalk in front of 575 Castro Street, where Castro Camera had been. There is a memorial to Milk at the Neptune Society Columbarium in San Francisco, California.

Harry Britt, one of four people Milk documented on his tape as an adequate substitute should he be assassinated, was chosen to fill that position by the city’s acting Mayor, Dianne Feinstein.

White was absolved of the first-degree murder charge on 21st May 1979 but found guilty of voluntary manslaughter of both victims, and he was sentenced to serve seven and two-thirds years. The sentence was reduced for time served and good behaviour; he would be freed in five years.

Lawyer’s suggested that White’s mental deterioration was explained and heightened by his junk food binge the night before the murders since he was typically known to have been health-food conscious. Local newspapers quickly dubbed it the Twinkie defence.

The White Night Riots

Acting Mayor Feinstein, Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, and Milk’s successor Harry Britt rebuked the jury’s decision.

Upon hearing the jury’s verdict, a crowd of people from the Castro District walked again to City Hall, chanting “Avenge Harvey Milk” and “He got away with murder”.

A frenzy rapidly grew as people hurled rocks at the front doors of the building. Milk’s friends and associates tried to stop the destruction, but the mob of more than 3,000 ignored them and lit police cars on fire. They pushed a flaming newspaper dispenser through the broken doors of City Hall, then cheered as the flames grew.

One of the rebels replied to a reporter’s question about why they were destroying parts of the city: “Just tell people that we ate too many Twinkies. That’s why this is happening.”

The Chief of Police called the police not to retaliate but to hold their ground. The White Night riots, as they became known, lasted several hours.

Later that night, several police cruisers loaded with officers sporting riot gear arrived at the Elephant Walk Bar on Castro Street. Harvey Milk’s protégé Cleve Jones and a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Warren Hinckle, watched as officers charged into the bar and started to attack patrons at random. After a 15-minute melee, they left the bar and hit out at people walking along the street.

At least 120 individuals, including some 60 police officers, were injured.

The murders of Milk and Moscone and White’s trial altered city politics and the California legal system. In 1980, San Francisco stopped district supervisor elections after worrying that a Board of Supervisors so divisive would be detrimental to the city and that this had been a factor in the assassinations. A grassroots neighbourhood effort to revive district elections in the mid-1990s proved successful, and the city returned to neighbourhood representatives in 2000.

Dan White served just over five years for the double homicide of Moscone and Milk; he was released from prison on 7th January 1984. On 21st October 1985, White was found dead in a running car in his ex-wife’s garage, committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 39 years old. His defence attorney told journalists that he had been sad over the loss of his family and the trouble he had caused, adding, “This was a sick man.

Harvey Milk’s Life and Lasting Legacy

Milk’s political career centred on making government sympathetic to individuals, gay liberation, and the importance of neighbourhoods to the city.

Harvey Milk firmly believed that neighbourhoods encouraged unity and a small-town experience and that the Castro should provide services to all its citizens. He fought the closing of an elementary school, even though most gay people in the Castro did not have children. Milk saw his neighbourhood as having the potential to accommodate everyone. He supported an important anti-discrimination bill and founded daycare centres for working mothers, and converted military buildings in the city into low-cost housing.

Milk had been a compelling speaker since he began campaigning in 1973, and his talents only enhanced after he became City Supervisor.

His most prominent talking points became known as the “Hope Speech”, which became a staple throughout his political career. It opened with a play on the accusation that gay people recruit impressionable kids into their numbers: “My name is Harvey Milk—and I want to recruit you.”

A version of the Hope Speech he gave near the end of his life was considered by his friends and aides to be the best:

“And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant in television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.”

On the 20th anniversary of Milk’s death, historian John D’Emilio said, “The legacy that I think he would want to be remembered for is the imperative to live one’s life at all times with integrity.”

San Francisco has paid tribute to Milk by naming several locations after him. On the junction of Market and Castro streets in San Francisco flies an enormous Gay Pride flag in Harvey Milk Plaza.

In April 2018, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor Mark Farrell signed legislation renaming Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport after Milk and planned to install artwork memorialising him. Officially opened on 23rd July 2019, Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is the world’s first airport terminal named after a leader of the LGBTQ community.

In New York City, Harvey Milk High School is a school program for at-risk youth that focuses on the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students and runs out of the Hetrick Martin Institute.

In July 2016, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus notified Congress that he planned to name the second ship of the Military Sealift Command’s John Lewis-class oilers USNS Harvey Milk. All ships of the class are to be named after civil rights leaders.

In response to a grassroots effort, in June 2018, the City Council of Portland, Oregon, voted to rename a thirteen-block southwestern section of Stark Street to Harvey Milk Street. The Mayor, Ted Wheeler, affirmed that it “sends a signal that we are an open and a welcoming and an inclusive community”.

The biopic Milk was released in 2008 after 15 years in the making. The film was directed by Gus Van Sant, starred Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White, and won two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay by Dustin Lance Black and Best Actor for Penn. It took eight weeks to film and often used extras who had been present at the actual events for large crowd scenes, including a scene portraying Milk’s “Hope Speech” at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade.

Milk was included in the “Time 100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century” as “a symbol of what gays can accomplish and the dangers they face in doing so”.

A statue of Milk was revealed in the centre rotunda at San Francisco City Hall in 2008.

In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously granted 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 accepted for his uncle. Shortly afterwards, Stuart co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation with Anne Kronenberg with the backing of Desmond Tutu, co-recipient of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom and now a member of the Foundation’s Advisory Board.

Later in the year, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated 22nd May as Harvey Milk Day and inaugurated Milk in the California Hall of Fame.

In 2014, the White House, the United States Postal Service and the Harvey Milk Foundation hosted a historic first day of issuance ceremony at the White House for the USPS Harvey Milk Forever Stamp. This stamp commemorates the first time an openly LGBT official has entered the limited number of “great and accomplished Americans to grace the corner of an envelope and represent the U.S. to the world”.

Milk was inducted in 2012 into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display in Chicago that celebrates LGBT history and people. He was named one of the inaugural fifty American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument (SNM) in New York City’s Stonewall Inn alongside Sylvia Rivera, Barbara Gittings, and Audre Lorde.

Paris, France, also named a square Place Harvey-Milk in Le Marais in 2019.

That is the incredible, inspiring story of Harvey Milk.

Nikki Halliwell (She/Her)

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4 Responses

  1. Can this article be updated to show that John Galen McKinley was 17 or 18 when he and Harvey Milk started a relationship? I have found John Galen McKinley’s birthdate on the Find A Grave website and his age (17) in a newspaper article in The Daily Mail on November 4, 1963. Also, the 1950 Federal census shows John Galen McKinley being 3 years of age on April 10, 1950.

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