Marsha P. Johnson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Google Google's Doodle of Marsha P. Johnson is illustrated by Los Angeles-based guest artist Rob Gilliam.

Marsha P. Johnson is the late activist and self-identified drag queen who is receiving a Google Doodle for her work in pioneering the country’s LGBT rights movements.

Google unveiled the new logo illustration on June 30, the last day of Pride month. The doodle features Johnson with flower-decorated hair and bright-red-lipstick.

“Thank you, Marsha P. Johnson, for inspiring people everywhere to stand up for the freedom to be themselves,” Google wrote in a statement.

Google Doodles are the “fun, surprising and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo” when celebrating holidays and other anniversaries, according to the company’s website.

Google also noted that a June 30 is the day Johnson was posthumously honored in 2019 as a grand marshal of the New York City Pride March.

Here is everything you need to know about Marsha P. Johnson:


1.  Johnson Adopted Her Drag Persona After High School

Born Malcolm Michaels, Jr, on Aug. 24, 1945, the New Jersey native moved to New York City in 1966 after graduating from high school, according to the Rolling Stone. She settled in Greenwich Village, where she adopted her drag queen persona and legally changed her name to Marsha P. Johnson, the magazine continued.

Johnson called herself “Black Marsha” before officially deciding on Marsha P. Johnson, the Stone said. The “P” stood for “Pay It No Mind,” which she would refer to when people questioned her gender.

CNN described Johnson as a “beloved figure in the Sixties New York Village scene.” She modeled for Andy Warhol in his 1975 Polaroid series, “Ladies and Gentlemen,” and performed onstage with the drag troupe Hot Peaches, Tatler said.

Tatler stated that Johnson became well-known for her “flowing dresses, high heels, wigs and bright accessories.” Because she did not extra money to spend on “high drag” style, she used resources like flowers to turn into crowns, the outlet explained.


2. Johnson Was a Force in the Original Gay Liberation Front and Stonewall Riots

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GettyPeople wearing masks walk past the Stonewall Inn during the the Queer March for Black Lives on June 28, 2020 in New York City.

Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front before co-founding the group, Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) with her friend Sylvia Rivera, the Rolling Stone reported.

The Stone said the activist group was “the first such organization in the U.S. to be led by a trans woman of color.” The duo later opened the STAR House in 1972, the first homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth, the magazine added.

Johnson is said to be one of three who resisted police during the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the Stone said. The Stonewall Uprising began on the morning of June 28 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwhich Village, according to History.com.

The raid ignited a riot among bar visitors and neighborhood residents, leading up to six days of violent protests, the website continues.

Johnson went on to thrive in leadership positions with varying activist groups, the Rolling Stone disclosed. She was an organizer and marshal for ACT UP, a grassroots group dedicated to ending the AIDS pandemic.


3. Johnson’s Body was Found in the Hudson River, Police Ruled it a Suicide

GettyThe Hudson River.

Johnson’s body was discovered floating in the Hudson River shortly after the 1992 New York Pride Parade, the Rolling Stone disclosed.

Police ruled her death as a suicide, inspiring several attempts among activists to re-open her case, the Stone continued.

Former New York state senator Tom Duane and activist Mariah Lopez publicly demanded authorities to investigate if Johnson was the victim of a hate crime, according to the magazine.

Filmmaker David France released his 2017 Netflix documentary, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” which follows activist Victoria Cruz’s quest to uncover what happened to the liberation activist.

“The most likely understanding of what happened to her the night she fell into the river was that she was put there or chased there by the police themselves. So, this idea of police violence going unanswered has a long history, especially within the queer community but the community of color across the board,” France told WUWM.

You can watch the trailer below:
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson | Official Trailer [HD] | NetflixWho killed Marsha P. Johnson? She was one of the icons of the gay rights movement in the 1960s, the self-described "street queen" of NY's gay ghetto, and founded the Transvestites Action Revolutionaries with fellow luminary Sylvia Rivera. When Johnson's body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, police called it a suicide and…2017-09-12T16:30:13Z


4. New York City is Erecting a Statue of Johnson in Greenwhich Village

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GettyStatues celebrating gay life in New York City stand outside the Stonewall Inn as A crowd gathers to celebrate Pride Month on June 26, 2019 in New York City.

The city declared last year its plans to build statues of both Johnson and Rivera at the Ruth Wittenberg Triangle just down the street from the Stonewall Inn, the Stone reported. The magazine said the figures will be the first to commemorate transgender individuals, city officials confirmed.

In 1992, the city unveiled a set of statues across the street from Stonewall in Christopher Park, the New York Times wrote. The monuments were made by George Segal to honor the uprising.

The four figures are painted white, which has evoked criticism for excluding transgender women and women of color, the newspaper added.


5. Google Will Donate $500,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute

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GettyGoogle’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Building on Google’s recent $2.4 million commitment to support global LGBTQ+ community nonprofits, the funds will “provide direct cash assistance to Black Trans people through the organization’s COVID-19 relief efforts,” according to a statement from Google.

The institute, which launched last year, “protects and defends the human rights of BLACK transgender people” by “organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal and developing transformative leadership,” its website states.

“Today’s Doodle will help teach her story to many more around the world, and about the work that has been historically ignored and often purposely left out of history books,” Founder and Executive Director of The MPJI Elle Hearns said in a statement online.

Adding, “The MPJI’s collaboration with Google is a bold action. It shows there are entities that trust Black trans leaders and follow the necessary steps in showing their commitment in supporting Black trans liberation. Join us and learn more here.”

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