Modern American Queer History

edited by Allida M. Black
Book Cover

PB: $33.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-872-5
Publication: Aug 01

HC: $86.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-871-8
Publication: Aug 01

312 pages
7 x 10
1 figs., 2 halftones

Essays considering the history of queer lives in America

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).


In the twentieth century, countless Americans claimed gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities, forming a movement to secure social as well as political equality. This collection of essays considers the history as well as the historiography of the queer identities and struggles that developed in the United States in the midst of widespread upheaval and change.

Whether the subject is an individual life story, a community study, or an aspect of public policy, these essays illuminate the ways in which individuals in various locales understood the nature of their desires and the possibilities of resisting dominant views of normality and deviance. Theoretically informed, but accessible, the essays shed light too on the difficulties of writing history when documentary evidence is sparse or "coded." Taken together these essays suggest that while some individuals and social networks might never emerge from the shadows, the persistent exploration of the past for their traces is an integral part of the on-going struggle for queer rights.


"This important collection brings together classic essays with new scholarship in a bold effort to reconfigure the field of lesbian and gay history. Lucid and comprehensive, the book will appeal not just to scholars and students, but to a crossover audience of general readers." Paula Martinac, author of The Queerest Places: A Guide to Gay and Lesbian Historic Sites

"This book is recommended for the queer and unqueer alike. Not only comprehensive and engaging, it also marks an important step in the ongoing effort to define and illustrate the idea of queer scholarship." Committee on Gay and Lesbian History

"(T)his collection offers a more complicated portrayal of the middle of the century, the years between the depression of the 1930s and the social and political revolutions of the 1960s." The Journal of American History

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Table of Contents


1. Where Are We to Begin? – John Howard

Part I: Categories of Sexuality
2. Romantic Friendship – Leila J. Rupp
3. "Someone to Talk Our Language": Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson, and the Little Review in Chicago – Holly A. Baggett
4. The New Negro Renaissance, A Bisexual Renaissance: The Lives and Works of Angelina Weld Grimké and Richard Bruce Nugent – Brett Beemyn

Part II: Evidence, Narrative, and Biography
5. "The Burning of Letters Continues": Elusive Identities and the Historical Construction of Sexuality – Estelle B. Freedman
6. Paula Snelling: A Significant Other – Margaret Rose Gladney
7. Homophobia and the Trajectory of Postwar American Radicalism: The Career of Bayard Rustin – John D’Emilio

Part III: Science, Fictions
8. Perverting the Diagnosis: The Lesbian and the Scientific Basis of Stigma – Allida M. Black
9. "A Thought a Mother Can Hardly Face": Sissy Boys, Parents, and Professionals in Mid-Twentieth-Century America – Julia Grant
10. Something They Did in the Dark: Lesbian and Gay Novels in the United States, 1948-1973 – Chris Freeman

Part IV: Community, Institutions
11. Rizzo’s Raiders, Beaten Beats, and Coffeehouse Culture in 1950s Philadelphia – Marc Stein
12. Black Feminist Organizations and the Emergence of Interstitial Politics – Kimberly Springer
13. Protest and Protestantism: Early Lesbian and Gay Institution Building in Mississippi – John Howard

Part V: Public Debates and Public Policy
14. Health Care, the AIDS Crisis, and the Politics of Community: The North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Health Project, 1982-1996 – Ian K. Lekus
15. The Immigrant Infection: Images of Race, Nation, and Contagion in the Public Debates on AIDS and Immigration – Jennifer Brier
16. The Myth of Lesbian (In)Visibility: World War II and the Current "Gays in the Military" Debate – Leisa D. Meyer

17. Where Are We Now, Where Are We Going, and Who Gets to Say? – Vicki L. Eaklor

About the Contributors

About the Author(s)

Allida M. Black is Director and Editor of The Eleanor Roosevelt and Human Rights Project, as well as Research Professor of History, The George Washington University.


In the Series

  • Critical Perspectives on the Past edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig

    Critical Perspectives on the Past, edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig, is concerned with the traditional and nontraditional ways in which historical ideas are formed. In its attentiveness to issues of race, class, and gender and to the role of human agency in shaping events, the series is as critical of traditional historical method as content. Emphasizing that history is itself an interpretation of material events, the series demonstrates that the historian's choices of subject, narrative technique, and documentation are politically as well as intellectually constructed.