Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture

ISBN13: 9780822324072
Release Date: January 13th 2000
Published by: Duke University Press Books
Pages: 272

Queering the Color Line transforms previous understandings of how homosexuality was “invented” as a category of identity in the United States beginning in the late nineteenth century. Analyzing a range of sources, including sexology texts, early cinema, and African American literature, Siobhan B. Somerville argues that the emerging understanding of homosexuality depended on the context of the black/white “color line,” the dominant system of racial distinction during this period. This book thus critiques and revises tendencies to treat race and sexuality as unrelated categories of analysis, showing instead that race has historically been central to the cultural production of homosexuality.
At about the same time that the 1896 Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson decision hardened the racialized boundary between black and white, prominent trials were drawing the public’s attention to emerging categories of sexual identity. Somerville argues that these concurrent developments were not merely parallel but in fact inextricably interrelated and that the discourses of racial and sexual “deviance” were used to reinforce each other’s terms. She provides original readings of such texts as Havelock Ellis’s late nineteenth-century work on “sexual inversion,” the 1914 film A Florida Enchantment, the novels of Pauline E. Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, and Jean Toomer’s fiction and autobiographical writings, including Cane. Through her analyses of these texts and her archival research, Somerville contributes to the growing body of scholarship that focuses on discovering the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality.
Queering the Color Line will have broad appeal across disciplines including African American studies, gay and lesbian studies, literary criticism, cultural studies, cinema studies, and gender studies.

More work like this

The Pulse of Black Life in the Long 19th Century
Autumn Womack, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
▶︎ Rethinking Empire and Democracy
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Reena N. Goldthree
▶︎ The Formation of ‘Religio-Racial’ Identity
Judith Weisenfeld, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
How Black Americans See Discrimination
National Public Radio

Upcoming Events

Hold: A Meditation on Black Aesthetics
Nov 4, 2017 @ 9:00 am - Feb 11, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
Wings of a Dove: Form, History, and the Gift of Black Art
Feb 8, 2018 @ 5:30 pm
Princeton Research Day
May 10, 2018
p: (609) 258-4270 | f: (609) 258-3484

African American Studies for the 21st Century

© 2017 The Trustees of Princeton University
  1. 'The Pulse of Black Life in the Long 19th Century' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Autumn Womack 30:42
  2. 'Rethinking Empire and Democracy' Reena N. Goldthree, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 44:49
  3. 'The Formation of Religio-Racial Identity' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Judith Weisenfeld 47:32
  4. 'What Was African American Marriage?' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Tera Hunter 44:59
  5. 'Before Cornel West, After Cornel West' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Cornel West 52:46
  6. 'An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Chika Okeke-Agulu 55:19
  7. 'A Through Line for African American Studies' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Imani Perry 44:07
  8. 'Activism and Risk in the Face of Trump' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Asanni York, Destiny Crockett 43:02
  9. 'Langston Hughes, Religious Thinker' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Wallace Best 45:50
  10. 'Convergences and Dissonance' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor, Naomi Murakawa, & Imani Perry 60:08