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American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

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

Pre-Reading (required):

Michael Bronski, A Queer History of the United States (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2011);  Susan Stryker, Transgender History: the Roots of Today’s Revolution second edition (New York, NY: Seal Press, 2017).

Guiding Questions:

Each day’s sessions will be framed by topic-specific 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?
  3. How have LGBTQ+ identities differed over time and place, and how have they intersected with race, ethnic, class, and other identity categories?
  4.  How can we teach LGBTQ+ experiences as integral to the American experience rather than just additions to an existing narrative? And how can historians and history teachers locate LGBTQ+ lives and culture in archives, including both archives that have historically and deliberately worked to erase their existence and archives intended to provide visibility, connection and pride for LGBTQ+ communities?

Week 1 - 11:30am to 5:00pm EST (Zoom)

Monday, July 8

What is LGBTQ+ history and why does it matter?

  • Institute overview and Introductions
  • Dr. Julio Capo (Florida International University) will provide historical context for contemporary efforts to legislate and restrict LGBTQ+ topics within United States’ schools. His presentation will invite participants to discuss the ways the local contexts in which they teach affect opportunities to introduce LGBTQ+ subjects in their classrooms and to share strategies for incorporating LGBTQ+ materials.

    K-12 Leader Pitkin will discuss the goals and specifics of the participant’s individual final projects, preview workshops and teaching-focused sessions, and answer questions.

  • Workshop: K-12 Leader Berman will highlight notable collections of online teaching resources on LGBTQ+ history, and discuss methods for incorporating the materials into k-12 classrooms. Tuesday, July 9

How did European conceptions of masculinity change in the New World and shape interactions in the new colonies? How have indigenous communities in North America defined gender and sexuality? And how were Indigenous expressions of sexual and gender identity impacted by colonialism?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Historian Sandra Slater (College of Charleston) will discuss masculinity in 17th and 18th century America. Slater will present court records, legal documents, and writing by European men that depict the Atlantic world as a ‘queer space’ that operated outside of established gender and sexual norms.
  • Jennifer Nez Denetdale (University of New Mexico) will join participants for a presentation on gender and sexuality within indigenous communities. Drawing from her research on the Navajo nation, Denetdale will discuss the impact of settler colonialism on Native gender and sexual expression, describing how leadership, laws and policies have shaped citizenship in ways that exclude gender diversity in the modern Navajo nation.
  • Workshop: With Slater, K-12 Leaders Rachel Pitkin and Stacie Berman will guide an interactive discussion about the use of language in historical sources and ways to help middle and high school students understand the changing terminology used to describe sexual and gender identities.

Wednesday, July 10

How did urbanization create opportunities for people in the 19th century to nurture single-sex intimate relationships and homosocial communities? How did policing and laws act to criminalize gender nonconformity?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • With a focus on ‘female husbands,’ individuals born female who married women, Jen Manion (Amherst College) will talk about gender and sexual identities in the early 19th century. Along with describing how female husbands (and their wives) help reveal new ways of understanding how gender was expressed and regulated, Manion will help teachers connect this history to their units on urbanization, industrialization, and 19th century movements for women’s rights.

    Workshop: K-12 Leaders Pitkin and Berman will lead a discussion on pedagogical best practices and classroom management strategies focused on negotiating the field of LGBTQ+ history. Participants will have an opportunity to share their own experiences and challenges with the group.
  • Jesse Bayker (Rutgers University) will discuss the use of cross-dressing laws and vagrancy policing to criminalize gender non-conformity since the antebellum period as well as the ways that trans individuals resisted the criminalization of their lives and practices.

  • Final Project: participants will have time to work on their final projects and ask questions of facilitators and the K-12 Education team.

Thursday, July 11

How did Americans in the 19th and 20th century use photography and fiction to document and express queer gender and sexuality? What do literary and visual cultures reveal about the representation and self-representation of LGBTQ+ Americans? 

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Travis Foster (Villanova University) will introduce participants to 19th century queer literature, focusing on representations and self-representations of gender-nonconformity and same-sex desire. Foster also will recommend literary sources appropriate for incorporating into middle and high school classes.

  • Workshop: Participants will work with the K-12 educational team on incorporating visual evidence into their curriculum. Small groups will work together to develop teaching activities using visual evidence to add into their final projects.

  • Devorah Romanek (Museum of History and Industry, Seattle) will discuss the representation of indigenous Americans in 19th century photography collections and the challenges of interpretation that these images pose. Romanek also will discuss photographs and other visual sources that could be used in teaching LGBTQ+ history and culture.

Friday, July 12

How does LGBTQ+ history transform U.S. immigration narratives? How have immigration policies enforced heteronormativity? How have immigrants and immigrant communities challenged these norms and policies? 

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up

  • A panel of historians will discuss how LGBTQ+ history intersects with the history of immigration in the United States. Historian Julio Capó (Florida International University) will present a queer history of  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 ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ immigrants on the basis of their race, gender, and sexual identities. Nayan Shah (University of Southern California) will discuss the role played by public health officials, the police, and other local authorities to control sex and gender expression within immigrant communities. In addition, Capó and Shah will show how activists challenged these policies and the impact of that resistance, drawing from their community studies of Miami and San Francisco, respectively, to highlight activity by Caribbean, Latinx, and Asian immigrants.

  • Roundtable: Week one ends with a roundtable featuring four participants from the 2022 LGBTQ+ Histories of the U.S. summer institute. Representing diverse geographic and educational settings, and a range of disciplinary subjects, the teachers will discuss how participation in the 2022 summer institute, including interactions with scholars and available resources, has affected their teaching and the opportunities, and challenges, of incorporating LGBTQ+ content in their classes.​


Week 2 - 9:30am to 5:00pm EST (in New York City)

Monday, July 15

How did LGBTQ+ activists shape the social reform and cultural movements of the early 20th century? How did medicine and law affect sexual and gender identities at the turn of the 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 focus on the women’s suffrage movement and Progressive Era, to discuss the significant contributions made by queer suffragists and reformers who challenged gendered norms in public activism and dress and the backlash that resulted in their historical erasure.

  • Jules Gill-Peterson (Johns Hopkins University) will continue the focus on the early 20th century, discussing the medicalization of sexual identities, including the role of racism and eugenics in the early 20th century. Looking particularly at the treatment of gender nonconforming children, Gill-Peterson will connect this earlier history to current struggles regarding gender-affirming care for trans children.

  • Final Project: participants will have time to work on their final projects and ask questions of facilitators and the K-12 Education team. 

Tuesday, July 16

How did LGBTQ+ communities coalesce and mobilize for political change in the decades after World War II?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • A panel of historians will discuss ways that LGBTQ+ communities formed to push for political and social change. Historian Timothy Stewart-Winter (Rutgers University-Newark) will discuss the growing movement by LGBTQ+ communities to expand legal protections and exert power through electoral politics in the second half of the twentieth century. Historian Dr. Emily Hobson (University of Nevada, Reno) will focus on the emergence of grassroots LGBTQ+ liberation movements and their connections to other movements during the 1960s to 1980s -- Black freedom movement, feminism, and antiwar and peace movements. Together, their presentations will cover a range of issues (employment discrimination, AIDS, marriage and family, military participation, criminalization and incarceration, etc.) that have encompassed the LGBTQ+ movement. By looking beyond the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, they will broadly frame how definitions of civil rights expanded to include the protection of sexual and gender identity, the variety of strategies and ideologies through which LGBTQ+ activists mobilized, and intra-community conflicts that have resulted in an uneven record of success. 

  • Field trip: New York Public Library collections specialist Jason Baumann will present documents and artifacts collected by the Library’s LGBTQ Initiative, including photos from the Gay Activists Alliance Collection, and talk about classroom usage of these materials.

Wednesday, July 17

What role do archives play in shaping LGBTQ+ history?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Field trip: Meeting at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, teachers will be introduced to objects from the largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities. The LHA staff will describe how scholars, writers, educators, 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.

  • Channing Joseph (Princeton University) will talk about the history of drag performance, from the late 19th century to the present. Joseph’s presentation will highlight William Dorsey Swann, whose arrests in Washington, D.C. represent early activism by gender nonconforming people, including many from within the city’s African American (and formerly enslaved) populations. Joseph’s research suggests new chronologies of drag and trans activism and deepens the historical connections with contemporary drag and ballroom cultures.

  • Workshop: Participants will work with Anne Valk and the k-12 educational team on strategies for using oral history in teaching LGBTQ+ history.

Thursday, July 18

How have LGBTQ+ communities shaped, and been shaped by, New York City? How is LGBTQ+ history recorded on the local landscape?

  • Check-in/Morning warm-up
  • Field trip: Historian Daniel Hurewitz (Hunter College) will lead a walking tour of Greenwich Village. Participants will convene at the Stonewall Inn, now a National Park Service site, for an exploration of places related to LGBTQ+ history. Hurewitz will also discuss methods for researching and creating local history tours.
  • After the tour, the group will meet at The LGBTQ Community Center where archivist Lou McCarthy will introduce materials from the National History Archive.

  • Historian Hugh Ryan will talk about his research to uncover new aspects of New York City’s LGBTQ+ history, drawing from his recently published books on Queer Brooklyn and the NYC Women’s House of Detention. As part of discussing local LGBTQ+ histories, he will emphasize the ties between political activism, incarceration, and LGBTQ+ movements, past and present.

Friday, July 19

Presentations, Wrap Up, and Next Steps

  • Participants will present and discuss their projects during an in-person gallery exhibit. Participants will have time to review and ask questions of other participants’ work. 

  • The institute will end with an open discussion and shared reflections, including planning next steps for the completion and submission of a LGBTQ+ teaching module by the end of the summer.

Field Trips and Workshops:

Museums and archives in New York City hold world-renowned collections of LGBTQ+-related manuscripts, visual and artistic creations, ephemera, and other materials.  We have arranged for Summer Scholars to engage with these institutions, where they can tour the collections, meet with archivists and education staff, and examine records that have been critically important for scholars. In addition to introducing Summer Scholars to these institutions and their holdings, the field trips will alert teachers to the kinds of resources that may be available in the communities in which they teach.

New York Public Library:The New York Public Library has one of the premier collections of LGBTQ history in the world. The Library also intensively collects the social history of the AIDS crisis, which has so disastrously impacted LGBTQ communities. These collections include the published record of both academic and popular literature, rare books, little magazines, historic newspapers, and major archives. There are at least 100,000 volumes and over 300 archival collections—containing hundreds of thousands of letters, manuscripts, photographs, posters, and other items—as well as numerous audio/visual materials. Other highlights include the One Archive; the National Archive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History; and the Lesbian Herstory Archives, among many other important collections. We will meet at the 42nd Street main branch, only 8 blocks from the CUNY Graduate Center.

Lesbian Herstory Archives: Since the 1970s, the Lesbian Herstory Archives has gathered and preserved records of Lesbian lives and activities so that future generations will have ready access to materials relevant to their lives. The volunteer-run archive holds the largest collection of materials documenting Lesbian lives in the world, including organizational records, personal papers, publications, photographs, audio and films, t-shirts, banners, and other ephemera. It is located in Brooklyn, not far from the guest house where we will negotiate a special rate for Summer Scholars.

LGBT Community Center: Founded in 1983, the Center serves as a gathering place, hosts cultural and social events, provides health and wellness services, and advocates for NYC LGBTQ+ residents. It’s facility includes the National History Archives, a repository for personal papers, organizational records, and publications that document the histories of the city’s LGBTQ+ communities. It is located in Greenwich Village, about a 10 minute walk from the Stonewall Inn, where participants will convene for a walking tour.

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