His name was William Dorsey Swann, but to his friends he was known as “the Queen.”
It was recently discovered in the last couple years that "the Queen" may have indeed been the first drag queen in the US...dating back to slavery times. Both of his names had been forgotten for nearly a century before they were rediscovered. William Dorsey Swann, a former slave, Swann reigned over a secret world of drag balls in Washington, D.C. in the 1880s and was the leader of possibly the world’s earliest-known LGBTQ liberation group...way before that of even the Stonewall and Compton riots. Swann was born approximately 1858 in Maryland. He lived through hellish slavery and the Civil War. In 1896, after being convicted and sentenced to 10 months in jail on the false charge of “keeping a disorderly house” — a euphemism for running a brothel — Swann demanded, and was denied, a pardon from President Grover Cleveland. Swann’s crime? He hosted a drag ball. Swann’s action also was an historic act — Swann is the earliest documented United States’ resident to take direct legal and political steps to defend the queer community’s right to gather without the threat of criminalization, suppression, or police violence, according to the site, Nation. A nice read, but you will have to join the site, or buy a day pass for $1.00 for a 24 hour pass, to read the article.