American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

LGBTQ+ Histories of the United States: Tentative Schedule and Syllabus

Pre-Reading (required):

Michael Bronski’s A Queer History of the United States. 

Guiding Questions:

These subject-focused questions will relate to broader questions that form the foundation of this institute and the study, and teaching, of LGBTQ+ history:

  1. How does LGBTQ+ history alter or transform prior understandings of the history of the U.S.?
  2. How have LGBTQ+ identities been constructed through laws, by social movements, by medical and religious authorities, by popular culture and media, and by LGBTQ+ identified people?

Week 1 - 11:30am to 5:00pm EST

Monday, July 11

What is LGBTQ+ history and why does it matter?

  • Institute overview and Introductions
  • Principal Faculty Michael Bronski (Harvard University) will introduce broad themes and explain some of the ways that LGBTQ+ history challenges established narratives of U.S. history. 
  • Workshop: Professor Stacie Brensilver Berman will detail bureaucratic, organizational, and pedagogical efforts to make United States history classes and curricula more LGBTQ+ inclusive and the backlash against those efforts. She will discuss the impact of recent legislation and what she learned from interviewing teachers doing this work in their classrooms.

Tuesday, July 12

How did European conceptions of masculinity change in the New World and shape interactions in the new colonies? How does a grounding in history complicate contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • ​Historian Sandra Slater (College of Charleston) will present court records, legal documents, and writing by European men that depict the Atlantic world in the 17th and 18th centuries as a ‘queer space’ that operated outside of established gender and sexual norms and in which contrasting gender dynamics characterized encounters between European and indigenous communities in North America. Together with Slater, participants will examine documents related to the trial of Thomas/Thomasine Hall in 17th century Virginia which provide evidence of Hall’s gender fluidity and British colonists’ efforts to legally define gender and to punish those who violated accepted norms of dress and behavior. Slater’s presentation will illustrate how the examination of gender and sexuality offers new ways to understand European exploration of the New World and the development of colonies in North America.
  • Workshop: K-12 Leaders Mabli and Berman will be joined by Professors Bronski and Slater for a discussion about terminology used in historical sources to describe sexual and gender identities. Through interrogating texts by individuals that historians now identify as LGBTQ+, as well as religious, legal, and medical documents, participants will discuss ways to help middle and high school students understand the changing language and best practices for creating inclusive classrooms and pedagogy.
  • K-12 Leader Mabli will review the goals and expectations of the teaching module final project that teachers will begin to develop at the institute and complete by the end of the summer. Participating teachers will meet within their curriculum working groups to begin planning their project-based modules.

Wednesday, July 13

How have indigenous communities in North America defined gender and sexuality? How have Two-spirit people (indigenous people who embody both male and female identities) been represented and remembered over time?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Gabriel Estrada (California State University, Long Beach) will discuss the presence of Two-Spirit people within indigenous communities. Centering indigenous history and considering evidence from a variety of sources across indigenous cultures and time periods. Estrada will address some of the distinctive ways that Native Americans have defined gender and sexuality.
  • NYC Department of Education Social Studies Senior Instructional Specialists Brian Carlin and Joe Schmidt will present the city's LGBTQ+ Hidden Voices curriculum project and discuss the process and obstacles inherent in its development. Participants will also have access to the lesson plans and teaching resources of the project for review.
  • Participants meet in their groups to work on the teaching module final project.

Thursday, July 14

How did urbanization and settlement in the western United States create opportunities for people in the 19th century to nurture non-normative and single-sex intimate relationships, communities, and identities?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Jen Manion (Amherst College) will talk about gender and sexual identities in the early 19th century and help teachers connect this history to their units on urbanization, industrialization, slavery and the Civil War. Manion will focus on “female husbands,” female-assigned persons who dressed and lived as men and married women and whose stories appear in court cases, pension records, letters, and newspaper coverage. Manion will show how the history of female husbands provides evidence of shifting views about gender and the ways that policing, laws and the economy enforced gender roles, family, and sexuality.
  • Dr. Christopher Packard (NYU) will discuss writers, illustrators, and photographers who depicted the homosocial culture and camaraderie that defined most of the places of work and leisure in the West, as well as its mythology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • Workshop: The K-12 educational team Mabli and Berman will lead an interactive workshop highlighting approaches to incorporating letters, memoirs, and literature into history units and apply these practices to in their groups to the teaching module final project.

Friday, July 15

How did photography and war shape the construction of new identities during the Civil War and its aftermath? How can LBGTQ+ history transform historians’ understanding of immigration and its impact on American life?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • The week ends with a discussion of ways to reimagine teaching the history of the Civil War and the post-Emancipation period. DeAnne Blanton (National Archives and Records Administration) will lead an investigation of government records, newspapers, letters, and memoirs that recount the experiences of hundreds who defied gender norms by dressing as men and going into battle as soldiers for both the Union and the Confederacy; some of these soldiers continued to live as men after the war. Looking at the the transgender narratives of Albert Cashier and John Noonan, participants will discuss historians’ interpretations of their stories and ways to incorporate their accounts into U.S. history courses.
  • Historian Julio Capó (Florida International University) will present a queer history of U.S. immigration policy in the 19th and 20th centuries, showing how federal immigration law helped define and protect heteronormative views of family and sexuality through determining who were ‘desireable’ and ‘undesireable’ immigrant on the basis of their race, gender, and sexual identities. Capó will also chart how immigrants and activists challenged these policies and the impact of that resistance.
  • ​Participants meet in their groups to work on the teaching module final project.

Week 2 - 11:30am to 5:00pm EST

Monday, July 18

How did LGBTQ+ activists and artists shape the social reform and cultural movements of the early 20th century?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Content-focused conversation on key points/issues and what participants have learned so far.
  • Historian Wendy Rouse (San Jose State University) will present a queer narrative of the women’s suffrage movement and Progressive Era. By examining how queer suffragists and reformers challenged gendered norms in public activism and dress, as well as the social and political support networks that activists created to transform opportunities for women in U.S. society, Rouse will broaden historical understandings of these movements and the threats they presented to U.S. society.
  • Participants meet in their groups to work on the teaching module final project.

Tuesday, July 19

How did World War II and the Cold War impact the development of LGBTQ+ communities?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Historian David Johnson (University of South Florida) will present his research on the impact of WWII on LGBTQ+ community formation and the Lavender Scare, the Cold War anti-communist fervor in the government that targeted LGBTQ+ workers as a national security threat. Government records show how the Lavender Scare encouraged a wave of homophobia that lasted for decades and was used to justify an expansion of the national security state.
  • A discussion with New York Public Library’s Collections specialist Jason Baumann who will present documents and artifacts collected by the Library’s LGBTQ Initiative, including photos from the Gay Activist Collection, and recordings from the Trans Oral History Project.
  • Graduate fellow Danielle Bennett will lead a discussion about personal positionality and its impact on classroom instruction.
  • Participants meet in their groups to work on the teaching module final project.
  • Optional public event: Historian Jonathan Ned Katz will discuss his new book, The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams. Katz’s biography features a Jewish Polish immigrant to the U.S. who participated in thriving LGBTQ+ communities in Prohibition-era New York and Chicago, supported anarchism and other radical movements, and published explicitly lesbian writing. These activities led to her deportation from the U.S., and death while imprisoned at Auschwitz.

Wednesday, July 20

How did gay and lesbian liberation movements emerge in connection to other radical movements in the 1960s and 1970s?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Dr. Emily Hobson (University of Nevada, Reno) will discuss the emergence of LGBTQ+ liberation movements and their connections to other movements. Looking especially at the 1960s to 1980s, Hobson will challenge teachers to consider how LGBTQ+ activism can be discussed in the context of the Black freedom movement, feminism, and antiwar and peace movements.
  • Virtual Fieldtrip: The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, houses the largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities. Participants will learn about collections that range from t-shirts and banners to buttons and discuss how scholars, writers, and artists have used these materials to understand Queer history as well as how community-based archives are essential to the recovery and preservation of this history.
  • Workshop: Professor Anne Valk will be joined by the K-12 educator team to present strategies for participants to incorporate LGBTQ+ oral history into their classrooms.

Thursday, July 21

How does the history of AIDS illuminate the broader political transformations of the late 20th century?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Professor Sarah Schulman (College of Staten Island) will continue the discussion of oral history methodologies with a presentation on her research and media work documenting ACT UP and other LGBTQ+ community responses to the AIDS crisis. Along with discussing media sources, she will discuss activism, popular media, health care and political organizing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • Archivist Steven Fullwood will discuss the history of the Harlem Renaissance, showing how this artistic and cultural movement created opportunities for the expression of African American Queer identities. Looking at visual and literary sources, as well as audio recordings, participants will share strategies for incorporating LGBTQ+ artists into teaching about Harlem and cities in the early 20th century.
  • Curriculum working groups will meet with the K-12 educational team and institute faculty to finalize their teaching module final project and presentations.

Friday, July 22

Presentations, Wrap Up, and Next Steps

  • Summer Scholars will present and discuss their projects. 
  • Each working group will make a presentation outlining some of the key learning goals, primary sources, activities, and assessments they have prioritized for their topic or time period. 
  • Whole group discussion.
  • Planning next steps for the completion and submission of a LGBTQ+ teaching module by the end of the summer.

Back to Main Page