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Mary I. & David D. Hunting Graduate Student Fellow
“’The Famous Lady Lovers:’ African American Women and Same-Sex Desire from Reconstruction to World War II”
This dissertation is a cultural history that examines the emergence of discourse on queer black women through the black press, the entertainment industries, and medical and social science scholarship. Woolner argues that the Great Migration played a crucial role in the creation of queer black networks in the urban North, and the black popular entertainment industry offered new opportunities for women economically as well as socially, serving as the backdrop for many performers’ same-sex relationships. While medical experts, reformers and journalists sought to represent black women who loved women as criminal and immoral, such women were nonetheless able to craft their own sexual subjectivities, both inside and outside of marriage to men, many decades before the modern gay liberation movement.
Institute for the Humanities
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Ann Arbor, MI