"As Proud Of Our Gayness, As We Are Of Our Blackness": The Political And Social Development Of The African-American Lgbtq Community In Baltimore And Washington, D.C., 1975-1991."

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History and Geography


Doctor of Philosophy

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This dissertation is situated within two major literatures that frame race and sexuality in post-civil rights America. These fields are the political and social development of the gay and lesbian community in the United States and African-American social history after the Civil Rights era. These studies are dominated by a series of themes. For instance, in U.S. LGBTQ studies, gay men's and lesbians' political mobilization for equal rights and safe spaces in their communities is predominant. Indeed, the literature explores how the gay rights movement rapidly grew into one of America's most consequential social movements of the twentieth century. Narratives of the African-American experience document a dynamic history that touches on the war against poverty, the rising carceral state, and the legacy and meaning of the black freedom struggle. However, the literature minimally uses sexual orientation as a category of analysis to describe the socio-political realities of the African-American community. Assessing a comprehensive understanding of the African-American LGBTQ community through these two typically exclusive frames provides a narrow view of the intersection of identity, race, and sexuality in the latter half of the twentieth century. This dissertation is a local study of Baltimore-Washington, D.C., that demonstrates both how black gay men and lesbians developed their political and social spaces, thereby forming a distinct queer community. The focus on racial separatism in gay and lesbian communities emphasizes communities of sexual orientation that complicates the general celebratory narrative of the broader LGBTQ (white) community. Also, the goal of this study is to uncover the stories of individuals in the black gay community who played a crucial role in the fight for gay rights by reconceptualizing the boundaries between racial and sexual identity. Through the development of a black gay identity; a community took shape that struggled against racism and homophobia on a number of fronts. In addition, this project will argue that the formation of a black queer community produced one of the most progressive political organizations and social spaces that challenged the sexual landscape and pioneered progressive measures such as HIV/AIDS awareness and education. This study highlights the complexities of the gay and lesbian community and the changing terrain of African-American social movements in the post-civil rights era by examining the various ways that black lesbians and gay men articulated an agenda for social justice and identity.