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03 June 2009



WOW. Just wow.

I am reading this now. This is incredible. I had no idea our history was so rich!

Thanks you!

Derrick from Philly

Oh, my God! Thank you, Rod. I should have known that (historically) Chicago had a glorious a black gay sub-culture--just as fab as New York or New Orleans. In fact, it wasn't so "sub", was it? The "children" used to be fabulous!

Andre H

is this the author's doctoral dissertation?

this is remarkable. bless mr. cabello for creating this treasure trove and bless you rod for finding it.

Aaron Parker

I loved me some Anthony Gallo but you can't get any better than this today. I'm going on lunch in 15 minutes and will spend the next hour reading this history. Oh and I like this Wikipedia style, too.

Love it. Looooove. It!

Baltimore Femme

@ Derrick:

You ain't never lied. These Chicago children were carrying on. Do you hear me, child? Carrying on.

I always said that llife was easier for us black gays and lesbs, especially the more feminine gay men, in the 1970s. The attitude was more relaxed and people stayed out of your business. But I had no idea it was this easy going in the roariing twenties. And drag dolls and gay men were respected!

Work it out, Tristan Cabelllo Phd!
And work it out Rod daddy...muah!

Chitown Kev

"and their relative acceptance" from the turn of the century to the early 1980s and the beginning of the AIDS crisis, when homophobia and anti-gay attitudes toward gays began creeping across society."

Rod, you nailed this part.

Now I am a Chicago transplant (Detroit native, here...Chicago resident for 19 years), so I didn't know all of this about Chiago plus I've lived on the North Side during my time here.

Thanks for showing Chi-Town some love!


--->Unfortunately the laissez-faire attitude toward gays, lesbians and transgenders in the black community would end. Attitudes began changing during the 1950s and the Civil Rights Movement approached and community leaders began promoting bourgeois, "middle-class values [and] led many gays and lesbians to be careful about acting on their sexuality, or to limit their sexual relationships to other cities. For example, Reverend Cobb started giving homophobic sermons in the mid-forties but was known to have gay sexual partners in many other cities."

And that continues to be the bourgeois, judgmental attitude within our black communities...you can be gay, but don't be flamboyant about it or have your fun outside of the neighborhood or another city.

This is brilliant. I'[m reading about the drag balls of the 1930s and 1940s.

You get the gold star for finding this one. And thank you Tristan Cabello! You are a godsend!


Wow, this is GREAT! And, I loved the line about how homosexuality was "quietly accommodated" it has been for ages in the black communities, and now this outrageous hate, nonsense began by these money grubbing preachers paid for by the GOP, but the children will ALWAYS be here and carry on.


i'm going to just skim this now. but at 5 o'clock when i get off work, chile, i am headed home and will fix me one nice, stiff cocktail and read this exhibit from page to page.

Ralph Davis

I am loving this!

That's right kiddies, gay pride means black gay pride and don't let them fool you ... its always been here and aint going nowhere!

Chitown Kev

I've read through some of the exhibit. Fantastic.

And I love history, I will admit to being jealous that I'm not the author of this exhibit. LOL.

But there's nothing stopping me.


And people want to question why we have black pride parties , marches and celebrations. Look at this! We have much to be proud of and fought tremendous odds just to wake up in the morning and walk down the street. Gay or lesbian and black. And proud!


"Homosexuality was quietly accommodated"

This was "the" history of the black community and the black church, once upon a time we were allowed to live and prosper and they left us alone. It seems like the civil rights era brought in many changes. More rights for black folk but were taught to be less tolerant of each other.

Oh and don't even let me get started on the 80s and AIDS.

Kevin Perez

I wonder what Afrocentrics, Rastas, Black Muslims, Black Pastors and etc.... have to say about all this. What do have to say about this when all they seem to believe is their conspiracy theories or how homosexuality was introduced by European Colonialism. The morons probably feel their idealogies and bigot beliefs being shattered and are the ones lying and have the audacity to claim they speak the through.

You're forgetting about the Hip Hop culture in the 1980s and the AIDS epidemic being tied to White folk that further led to the pathetic anti-gay hysteria in our respective communities.

Hard to believe people were more "tolerant" back then.

King Drive

Mercy, this is a treasure!
I grew up in this neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s. It was a lil rough then but changed a lot, much more gentrified now. I can remember many queens and lesbians living in the community back then, not so many now but the ones who are here don't want to their tea "clocked."

This is such a gift, thanks Rod, you surprise us every day.


Wow. Who would have thought I would read about my professors in this blog on day! I took Tristan's seminar on the history of AIDS in America, last fall, here at Northwestern. He talked about his work on Bronzeville at length. He is so fascinating. Makes you want to be an historian! Go Tristan!

Stuffed Animal

Once again, we disrespect ourselves and marginalize our own history by inviting society to call us "queers". I'm sure this is a wonderful exhibit, but I will refuse to see it so long as it demeans my identity as a Black Gay man. When will we learn better?

Baltimore Femme

@ Stuffed Animal:

Your "queer" schtick is becoming tiring. You write post after post attacking the world and criticize any black gay person who uses the phrase.

Two things, swweety. First, people call themselves what they want to call themselves. I don't really care for the phrase, but some people do. Two...Rod didn't use the freakin' word. He says "Black LGBTs" in title. The AUTHOR of this wonderful, brilliant exhibit used the word.

So you are saying you have no desire to read an online exhibit because of one word? If it said "Black Gays" you would be all for it? Sweety, if anyone is "marginalizing our own history", that would be you.

Chitown Kev

@Stuffed Animal

"Queers" was the socially acceptable term in the context of the history Cabrello is citing, that is why it is used.

And there are quite a few in the gay community who choose to reclaim the word and identify themselves as "queer." If you are demeaned by the nomenclature, that is your choice and it should be respected as much as the choice of those who do choose to identify as "queer."

Carter G

Queer was a perfectly acceptable term in the 1920s to 1950s. The term also encapsulates lesbians, bisexuals, and the trans community.

I'm also with Baltimore. I have admired many things you have written about the church and black gay...but you have railed against this word on every black gay blog and your own blog. I don't use "queer" but many gay men (and women) have reclaimed the word just like we reclaim "fag" or "dyke" or n-word.

According to his bio, "Tristan Cabello taught at the University of Chicago and Northwestern", Johns Hopkins and other top tier universities. I seriously doubt...seriously...that he is taking cues from an online agitator named "Stuffed Animal." Think about it.

Chad Montgomery

Stuffed Animal, why are you so virulently opposed to the term? If it's not your choice of words, why not just ignore it?

Just curious...

A. Ronald

Keith, please pass our best to your professor. He is quote resourceful and many of us (at least myself and these people commenting) admire his work on black lgbt history.



I hope that this online exhibit becomes a book and something for distributable to the masses. These are the kinds of moments and mementos that I believe that we need to have, in all of their forms, in order to broaden the truth of who we are and what our history is as a community!

Kudos to Professor Cabello!

What a great thing!



The general disdain and disregard that is so vile and hateful against the LBGT communities wasn't so in the early days of this countries BECAUSE we were communities of people who understood that there were differences amongst us. As much as some people didn't like something about someone in the community, they knew them as people and we could love and respect each other from that place along.

Portrayals like that of the lesbian couple, portrayed by Lonette McKee and Paula Kelly, in Gloria Naylor's WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE, show that even when someone would say something, others were quick to respond in support because the issues of the day were greater than people's individual business or behaviors.

Today, because of the media and various outlets, we have a societal perspective of NORM that we are trying to conform to, even as we live in the same communities with the same differences as before. Now, because of television especially, people have aspirations to assimilate and seek to cast off any image that they think stops them from being able to do do. This struggle is the same among Jews, among Hispanics, among Asians. Any group finds that the members of its newer generations have a different aspiration and perspective than those before them.

It's sad to know, for fact, that gays and lesbians have existed in the Black community for decades and generations and were welcomed into homes and parts of communities and churches simply and fully because of their benefits to the communities (hairdressers to teachers, choir directors to helpful confidante). We were a part of the fabric of the community and while husbands didn't understand, in some cases, and wives laughed and befriended, we were there. As Black people ventured to become more and more like the Joneses, desperately hoping to become a part of the societal norm, we have sought to, as other cultures, "rid" ourselves of those people we feel impede our conformity, thus the term for us and for all--CAST-OFFS.

This exhibit so brilliantly shows that we have always been here, before white folks and Stonewall, so that debunk the belief that white men somehow made us do something that wasn't innate to us.

Ruth Ellis, openly lesbian woman, died at 100+ and she told wonderful stories of community, even before some of our parents were born. We need to get back to that kind of community. That's going to be equally as impossible IF WE are hoping to become as conformist WITHIN our community as the very community(ies) that seek to cast us off.

These images, sweet and innocent, historical and, personally and intimately, hysterical because of the wonderful abandon of it all, make me want to continue to write our stories and push more and more to build the Black Gay Community that I dream about as a kids, before someone told me that I was "maybe too much for a Black man."

I am a Black Gay Man who isn't trying to fit in and never wanted to. My journey is about carving my own niche and notch in the world and this exhibit is my NEW INSPIRATION!

Thanks again!!!


What a fantastic resource! There has been earlier work on New York City, but I think we all knew a 'subculture' like this was in EVERY city during these years. Bravo and great job. And I agree, call me 'last century' but I'd love to see a version of this in book form one day also.

BTW, re 'Queer' -- It is true that that term was used quite often inside and outside the LGBT community during those years, but also now many colleges and universities have 'Queer Studies' programs, and books on LGBTQ topics, particularly if they come from academia/university presses will be cataloged as 'Queer Studies.'

Yes the word doesn't fall easily from my lips, but I understand how and why it is used (or 'been reclaimed' as some lesbians wish to reclaim 'dyke' as a positive term) in certain circles.

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