Melvin "Mel" Boozer



Melvin "Mel" Boozer (1946-1987) was a university professor and activist for African American, LGBT and AIDS issues.

< Boozer grew up in Washington, D.C. where he graduated as salutatorian of his class at Dunbar High School. Boozer attended Dartmouth College on a scholarship. He entered the university in 1963, one of only three African Americans admitted that year. Following his graduation he became a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. In 1979, Boozer was elected president of the Gay Activists Alliance, in which office he served for two one-year terms. He was the first African American to serve as GAA president and became "a leading moderate voice among black gays nationally".

Boozer was nominated in 1980 for the office of Vice President of the United States by the Socialist Party USA and, by petition at the convention, by the Democratic Party. He was the first openly gay person ever nominated for the office. Boozer spoke to the Democratic convention in a speech televised in prime time, calling on the party to support equality for LGBT people.

"Would you ask me how I dare to compare the civil rights struggle with the struggle for lesbian and gay rights? I can compare them and I do compare them, because I know what it means to be called a 'nigger' and I know what it means to be called a 'faggot,' and I understand the differences in the marrow of my bones. And I can sum up that difference in one word: none."

Boozer received 49 votes before the balloting was suspended and then-Vice President Walter Mondale was renominated by acclamation.

In 1981, Boozer was hired by the National Gay Task Force as district director and a lobbyist. NGTF executive director Virginia Apuzzo fired him in 1983, replacing him with then-GAA president Jeff Levi. This had the effect of "leaving the nation's oldest gay organization even whiter" and drew protests from other gay African Americans.

Boozer died of an AIDS-related illness in March 1987 at the age of 41 in Washington, D.C.