1955 - 2009

"I want people to know they don’t have to live their lives in a permanent ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ existence. Truth is a powerful tool."

- E. Lynn Harris

Harris attended the University of Arkansas where he graduated with honors in journalism. After a successful career as an IBM executive, he turned to writing professionally, at first self-publishing the ground-breaking Invisible Life in 1994, before achieving national recognition. A ten-time New York Times bestselling author, his books also appeared on the bestseller lists of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and Los Angeles Times. Harris novels chronicle the exploits of beautiful and buff black men – living on “the down low” – and the straight black women in their lives, about whom he wrote with sensitivity and glowing admiration. His accessible stories normalized gay life for a community that had long been in denial about the non-straight people in their midst. In the process, he launched a new genre of black gay literature. With more than 2 million copies of his novels in print, Harris ranks as one of the most popular African-American novelists of all time. His unprecedented mainstream success had a powerful impact on the publishing business, single handedly carving out a space for contemporary African-American novelists – both gay and straight. Harris was highly regarded in the literary community for his generous support of up-and-coming writers through the E. Lynn Harris Better Days Foundation, and for always making time for his readers, whom he credited with saving and changing his life. He passed away at the age of 54 in 2009, just months before the release of his final work, Mama Dearest.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity African American Black

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution




Commemorations & Honors

National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall National Monument Inductee (2019)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell