Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-09-20
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

'Not Straight, Not White' highlights history of Black gay men
by Liz Baudler
2016-11-16

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Kevin Mumford believes his book, Not Straight, Not White, is one of the first non-fiction books to simultaneously highlight both Black and gay identities. "In the mainstream press I think you get these very singular categories of public discourses, and it's hard to get them to be more complicated," said Mumford, a history professor at the University of Illinois-Champaign. "There's still a lot of white-centered gay narratives."

Like many people, Mumford was familiar with James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin before he began his book, but he wanted to be original in his research. "I learned a lot by reading their FBI files, reading their newspaper clippings, and focusing on their gay writings in a way that people hadn't," Mumford recalled.

Although the book mostly profiles Black gay men in short, well-researched biographical chapters, Mumford said he couldn't resist including Lorraine Hansberry, who visited the White House with James Baldwin in the early '60s and whose archives he had special permission to view. "She's really an icon of African-American culture. She wasn't particularly out: she would have been out had she lived, I'm quite sure, but like Rustin, like Baldwin, she had to advocate for social justice and sort of remain silent on the question of her desire," Mumford said.

Trolling through archives brought up some unexpected figures, like Grant-Michael Fitzgerald, a gay Catholic activist from Philadelphia who Mumford feels was ahead of his time.

"I was working on an article about the passage of a sexual orientation clause in Philadelphia," Mumford remembered. "A lot of African American clergy turned out to testify against the measure. Two-thirds of the way through, this man steps up and says, "I am Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald. I am here to tell you brothers and sisters that god loves gays and lesbians."

Mumford did some research on Fitzgerald's religious order and followed up with people who knew Fitzgerald, who died of AIDs in the 80s. "I was able to sort of piece together this portrait of someone who was arguing for gay rights, arguing for Black gay power, arguing for inclusion for lgbt people in the church, educating priests about the mental well-being of gays and lesbians, their needs for religious outreach, all of which was pretty unsuccessful. He's somebody that did not win his battles, but he's really interesting to write about."

Community activist and anthology editor Joseph Beam was another piece of the puzzle, and Beam's own archives may have helped save him from obscurity. "Beam was really extraordinary because he corresponded with all kinds of people, and he saved all the letters that he got, and carbon copies of all of the letters that he sent," Mumford explained. "He's an average guy, he's an activist, worked at the Giovanni's Room bookstore, he's a waiter, but he has 15 boxes full of everyday letters, of being an activist, of being a community worker. For a historian, that becomes a crucial point for how you're going to create the story."

To Mumford, Beam is also somewhat recognizable in today's climate of intersectionality.

"Intersectionality is what Beam was working on. His belief in representation and the importance of having people see your humanity, that's totally what he was about. He was learning from Black feminists. That's the kind of work, the work of recognition—I think it's very progenitive of Black Lives Matter," Mumford said.

The throughline of Mumford's subjects, he feels, is their desire to create social change in response to their stigmatized identity.

"One of the things I was trying to figure out when I first started reading [Beam's] papers was, "why is he so invested in image-making?," Mumford said. "And I realized, at the end of my research, that there had been a lot of stigma. It's not that there weren't images of Black gay men. There were lots of images, but they were pretty negative. Even when Black intellectuals stepped up by the early 1970s to defend the normalcy of the Black family, it was always assumed that Black families didn't have Black gay men. It was a super-respectable defense."

This erasure and downgrading is most evident to Mumford when it comes to how the civil rights establishment treated both Rustin and Baldwin, both of whom, at the time of their greatest activism, were widely known to be gay.

"Anyone else who had successfully organized the most important mass demonstration in American history, they would not find themselves unemployed the next day," Mumford said of Rustin. "But Rustin had already been outed. He was already a political untouchable. It was only because of higher-ups that Rustin got to be involved in the march, and then afterwards he really had nowhere to go. And Baldwin would have loved to be in the March on Washington. He was clearly second only to King in terms of celebrity. He was a global figure, a world-famous novelist. Totally marginalized by the establishment throughout this period, clearly because he was gay and was understood as not what a civil rights figure or leader should be."

Writing this book helped Mumford see that in some ways, identity politics still has a role to play in today's social movements.

"People have turned against identity politics," Mumford said. "It's not grappling with some big structural problems, poverty or capitalism, and that's kind of where a lot of scholarship I think is going. And I think the lesson I learned is that's not right. You need to be able to walk into a bookstore and finds yourself, in order to be politically active, in order to be successful in any kind of place. That politics of recognition, of having respect no matter who you are, that's as important as anything on the table, as far as I'm concerned."


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Banned Books Week, Sept. 24 - 30, celebrates power of words 2017-09-22 - HICAGO — Libraries, bookstores and schools will celebrate Banned Books Week, Sept. 24 — 30, 2017, an opportunity to celebrate the power of ...


Gay News

Speakers announced For Chicago Ideas Week Oct. 16-22 2017-09-08 - CHICAGO, Aug. 29, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The lineup for the largest affordable ideas festival in the world — Chicago Ideas Week ( CIW ...


Gay News

Downers Grove council ousts library trustee after alleged anti-LGBT remarks 2017-09-06 - The Downers Grove Village Council unanimously voted Sept. 5 to remove Arthur Jaros, a member of the Downers Grove Public Library's Board of ...


Gay News

Downers Grove pol moves to oust Library Board member after anti-gay remarks 2017-09-02 - Downers Grove Village Commissioner Greg Hosé announced Aug. 29 that he had submitted a new business item at the village council's next meeting—scheduled ...


Gay News

West Chicago library votes to keep LGBT book 2017-08-29 - The West Chicago Public Library Board of Trustees voted 6-1 Aug. 28 to retain the children's book This Day in June—both in the ...


Gay News

Women & Children First Books hosts authors, book groups in September 2017-08-28 - Women & Children First is an independant bookstore with focus on the interests of feminists and children and offering regular author appearances and ...


Gay News

Civil Liberties writing, performance workshop to planned by Goodman, Alphawood 2017-08-25 - ( Chicago, IL ) Goodman Theatre is proud to continue its collaboration with Chicago's Alphawood Gallery with the new writing workshop series, "I ...


Gay News

BOOKS Author explores truth about friend's death 2017-08-23 - In this nonfiction mystery, author Kevin Troxall revisits his hometown is Glasgow, Kentucky, to uncover the truth about the death of his childhood ...


Gay News

'Own voices' panel on LGBTQIA mystery writing Sept. 28 2017-08-23 - Center on Halsted/Mystery Writers of America host a panel of Mystery Writers of America, Midwest Chapter authors who write LGBTQIA-focused novels to raise ...


Gay News

Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers to be honored with Carl Sandburg awards Oct. 11 2017-08-18 - CHICAGO — The Chicago Public Library Foundation and Chicago Public Library will present the annualCarl Sandburg Literary Awards to best-selling authors Margaret Atwood ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.