The expansion of gay rights in America has led to a growing interest in LGBT history. But aside from books and online resources, there aren’t that many places where people can learn about pioneers in the movement for equal rights.
That’s what makes the Rainbow Honor Walk, San Francisco’s LGBT Walk of Fame, such a necessary attraction. Unveiled in September 2014, the walk features bronze star plaques honoring 44 individuals whose legacy includes contributions to the gay rights movement.
Diversity is the theme here, as the honorees are gay, lesbian, trans, white, black, Latino, and Asian. Those honored include civil rights activists, writers, poets, artists, and musicians.
Who’s on the LGBT Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco?
Familiar names on the walk include Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams, Pulitzer Prize winner Tennessee Williams, scientist Alan Turing, artist Frida Kahlo, poet Allen Ginsburg, and famed writers Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf.
The walk currently features 44 stars (see the full list here). As of this writing, 36 actual stars have been placed into the sidewalk, while plans are in the works to add the remaining eight names in the future.
The Rainbow Honor Walk can be found in the Castro, the neighborhood that has served as the center of gay life in San Francisco for decades. The walk passes right in front of Harvey Milk’s former camera shop, which is now a Human Rights Campaign headquarters.
Harvey is not technically part of the Walk of Fame since he already had an existing sidewalk plaque in front of his former office.
Some of the lesser known names I was excited to see on the Rainbow Honor Walk:
-Randy Shilts, the journalist who wrote And the Band Played On, one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. The book documented the spread of HIV and AIDS in the early ’80s and how government’s failure to respond in a timely fashion exacerbated the crisis.
-Del Martin, the activist who lived for 50 years with her partner before being married at age 82 by SF mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 in the ceremony that kickstarted the same-sex marriage debate in the U.S.
-Sylvester, the disco singer who dressed in drag back when it was illegal and dangerous to do so. He performed with Martha Wash and the Pointer Sisters and opened for David Bowie and Chaka Khan.
Recent Additions to the Rainbow Honor Walk
A couple years ago, a new batch of 24 honorees was added to the Rainbow Honor Walk, joining the 20 who had previously been honored.
New additions included astronaut Sally Ride, former baseball player Glenn Burke, drag queen and movie star Divine, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, author and activist Vito Russo, and 19th-century Native American tribal leader We’wha.
The Honor Walk’s website explains, “The criteria for all nominations to be honored with a RHW sidewalk plaque are as follows: self-expressed LGBTQ individuals, now deceased, who made significant contributions in their fields.”
Also inducted is former Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who grew up in Zanzibar, Tanzania, before moving to England and becoming one of the greatest rock stars in history.
Find the Rainbow Honor Walk LGBT Walk of Fame on the sidewalk in the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street. Just look for the rainbow crosswalks.
While you’re in San Francisco, make sure to check out Coit Tower, Alcatraz, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Cable Car Museum! And here’s a whole list of cool things to do in Berkeley on the other side of the bay!