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LHMP #407 Avilez 2014 African American Writing until 1930

Full citation: 

Avilez, Gershun. 2014. “African American Writing until 1930” in The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature ed. E.L. McCallum & Mikko Tuhkanen. Cambridge University Press, New York. ISBN 978-1-107-03521-8

Publication summary: 

A collection of articles meant as a critical reference work on literature across time and space that might be considered “gay and lesbian literature.” Only articles with lesbian-relevant content will be blogged in detail.

Chapter 17 - African American Writing until 1930

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This article works through a lens of the sexualization of Black identities and Black bodies, as well as how desire is constructed in Black writing. The content is not limited to writers with same-sex desire and covers up through 1930, looking at three distinct eras: antebellum, later 19th century, and Harlem Renaissance. [Note: the Harlem Renaissance is a rich historic and social era, but falls outside the time scope of the Project.]

One issue with viewing this article as covering gay and lesbian topics is that the author views all black sexuality of the antebellum period as non-normative and therefore inherently “queer” regardless of the genders involved.

Relevant mentions include Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s 1895 story “Natalie” about a tomboy girl, who has a homoerotic (but not actively sexual) relationship with another girl.

Racial “passing” is discussed as another inherently “queer” act, in parallel with gender passing.

The letters of Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus are mentioned briefly, as are the writings of Angela Weld-Grimké. The remainder of the chapter concerns the 20th century Harlem renaissance.

Time period: 

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