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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’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
  • Foundations of LGBTQ+ History
    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. 
    Assigned Readings: Michael Bronski, A Queer History of the United States (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2011): Introduction and chapter 1. 
    BREAK
  • Workshop: K-12 Leaders Peter Mabli and Stacie Berman will be joined by Dr. Bronski, and will guide an interactive discussion of 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.
    Assigned Readings: Brad M. Maguth and Nathan Taylor, “Bringing LGBTQ Topics into the Social Studies Classroom,” The Social Studies Vol. 105, (2014), 23-28.

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?

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • ​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 in the 17th and 18th centuries as a ‘queer space’ that operated outside of established gender and sexual norms.
    Assigned Readings:  Bronski, Chapter 2; Elizabeth Reis, Bodies in Doubt: Intersex in Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012): excerpts; Thomas A. Foster, “Antimasonic Satire, Sodomy, and Eighteenth-Century Masculinity in the "Boston Evening-Post," William and Mary Quarterly, v. 60 (January 2003): 171-184; plus Thomas/Thomasine Hall Court Records.
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  • Workshop: K-12 Leaders Mabli and Berman will be joined by Dr. Bronski and Dr. Slater, and will guide an interactive discussion on how to read historical documents and the use of primary sources in the classroom. Assigned Readings: Brad M. Maguth and Nathan Taylor, “Bringing LGBTQ Topics into the Social Studies Classroom,” The Social Studies Vol. 105, (2014), 23-28.
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  • Review of goals and expectations of the teaching modules that working groups will begin to develop at the institute and complete by the end of the summer.
  • Curriculum working groups meet.

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?

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • Gabriel Estrada (California State University, Long Beach) will discuss the presence of Two-Spirit people within indigenous communities by  exploring some of the distinctive ways that Native Americans have defined gender and sexuality.
    Assigned Readings: Gabriel Estrada, “Two-spirit Histories in Southwestern and Mesoamerican Literatures,” in Sandra Slater and Fay A. Yarbrough, eds., Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous North America, 1400-1850 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2011): 165-184; Mai Sheppard and J.B. Mayo, Jr., “The Social Construction of Gender and Sexuality: Learning from Two Spirit Traditions,” The Social Studies Vol. 104, (2013), 259-270.
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  • Valk, Mabli and Thompson Ray will join Summer Scholars for a discussion of the readings assigned for days 1-3 and create shared notes on the community website.
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  • Virtual Workshop: Hands-on workshop at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, which preserves and exhibits visual arts created by LGBTQ+ artists, and art exploring LGBTQ+ themes, issues, and people. A museum educator will introduce Summer Scholars to educational materials that investigate identity, social justice, LGBTQ+ history, and activism through works of art.
    BREAK
  • Curriculum working groups meet.

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?

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • 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.
    Assigned Readings: Bronski, Chapter 3-4; Jen Manion, Female Husbands: A Trans History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020): Introduction and Part II.
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  • Dr. Christopher Packard (NYU) will discuss changing notions of masculinity and sexual identity that emerged as male-centered when writers, illustrators, and photographers depicted the homosocial culture and camaraderie that defined most of the places of work and leisure in the West.
    Assigned Readings: Bret Harte, “Tennessee’s Partner” (short story published in 1869); Christopher Packard, Queer Cowboys and Other Erotic Male Friendships in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature (NY: Palgrave, 2006): chapter 2.
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  • Workshop: The K-12 educational team, Mabli and Berman, will join Packard to lead an interactive workshop highlighting approaches to incorporating letters, memoirs, and literature into westward expansion history units.
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  • Curriculum working groups meet.

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 the War and its impact on American life?

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • Archivist DeAnne Blanton (National Archives and Records Administration) will address the government records, newspapers, letters, and memoirs from the nineteenth century that recount the experiences of hundreds of women who defied gender norms by dressing as men and going into battle as soldiers for both the Union and the Confederacy. 
    Assigned Readings: DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War (New York: Vintage Books, 2002): chapters 1-2;  Jonathan Katz. " 'Mrs. Nash' of Custer's Seventh Cavalry". Gay American History: Lesbians And Gay Men In The U.S.A. (New York: Crowell 1976);  Albert Cashier's pension application file: Approved Pension File for Private Albert D. J. Cashier, Company G, 95th Illinois Infantry Regiment (XC-2573248), National Archives, Curt Eriksmoen, “Libbie Custer’s Laundress Actually a Man,” Bismarck Tribune, 15 January 2012.
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  • Summer Scholars, the k-12 educational team and institute faculty will discuss the readings assigned for days 4-5 and continue to record and share their thoughts for use by the full group.
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  • Art historian Horace Ballard will discuss how visual culture reveals the impact of the Civil War on gender, particularly depictions of masculinity.  Ballard will examine photography and portraiture to show how public figures fashioned their race, class, and gender identities to indicate changing definitions of both white and African American masculinity at the end of the 19th century.
    Assigned Readings: Bronski, Chapter 4; Anthea Callen, Looking at Men: Anatomy, Masculinity, and the Modern Male Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), excerpt; Horace Ballard, “‘Foundations & Beginnings’: W.E.B. Du Bois Passing as a Dandy,” Fashion Theory, v. 24 (April 2020): 471-97.
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  • Summer Scholars will have time to meet with the day’s scholars and ASHP/CML staff in their curriculum working groups to review ways they plan to incorporate the first week’s topics into their teaching.

Weekend of July 16-17

Summer Scholars will have the option of virtual field trips (TBD).

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?

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • Historian Wendy Rouse (San Jose State University) will focus on the women’s suffrage movement and Progressive Era and how significant contributions made by queer suffragists and reformers who challenged gendered norms in public activism and dress are less visible.
  • Assigned Readings: Bronski, Chapter 5; Wendy Rouse, “Gender, Sexuality and Love Between Women in California’s Suffrage Campaign,” California History, v. 97 (Winter 2020): 144-150.
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  • 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, Summer Scholars will share strategies for incorporating LGBTQ+ artists into teaching about Harlem and cities in the early 20th century.
    Assigned Readings: Bronski, Chapter 6-7; James F. Wilson, Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010): excerpts.
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  • Workshop: Summer Scholars will work with the K-12 educational team on defining and implementing best practices for translating and incorporating LGBTQ+ scholarship into accessible curricular materials.
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  • Curriculum working groups meet.

Tuesday, July 19

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

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • Historian David Johnson (University of South Florida) will demonstrate how World War II helped facilitate LGBTQ+ community formation as the mass mobilization of troops and workers brought millions of men and women into same-sex living and working environments.
    Assigned Readings: Bronski, Chapter 7-8; David K. Johnson, “The Red Scare’s Lavender Cousin: The Construction of the Cold War Citizen,” in Leila J. Rupp and Susan K. Freeman, eds., Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017): 186-198.
  • BREAK
  • Summer Scholars, the k-12 educational team and institute faculty will discuss the readings assigned for days 6-7.
  • Workshop: 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 Activist Collection, and recordings from the Trans Oral History Project. 
  • Summer Scholars will work with Baumann and the k-12 educational team on approaches to helping students to decode 20th century government documents and popular media and best practices for their use in teaching LGBTQ+ history.
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  • (Optional public event) Historian Jonathan Ned Katz will read from 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 anarchist 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?

  • Workshop: Staff at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, will lead Summer Scholars in a hands-on workshop using objects from the largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities. Summer Scholars will understand 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.
  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • Dr. Emily Hobson (University of Nevada, Reno) will discuss the emergence of LGBTQ+ liberation movements and their connections to other movements during the 1960s to 1980s -- Black freedom movement, feminism, and antiwar and peace movements.
    Assigned Readings: Bronski, Chapter 9-10; Emily Hobson, “LGBTQ Politics in America since 1945,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, edited by Jon Butler (Oxford University Press, 2017); Jared Leighton, “‘All of Us are Unapprehended Felons’: Gay Liberation, the Black Panther Party, and Intercommunal Efforts Against Police Brutality in the Bay Area,” Journal of Social History, v. 52 (Spring 2019): 860-885.
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  • Workshop: Summer Scholars will work with Anne Valk and the k-12 educational team on strategies for using oral history in teaching.
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  • Curriculum working groups develop their teaching modules.

Thursday, July 21

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

  • Summer Scholar-led discussion and reflection on previous day’s content.
  • Sarah Schulman (College of Staten Island) will discuss her research and media work documenting ACT UP and other LGBTQ+ community responses to the AIDS crisis, health care, and political organizing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
    Assigned Readings: Sarah Schulman, “Introduction: How Change Is Made,” Let The Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP, NY 1987-1993 (NY: Farar Strauss and Giroux, 2021).
    BREAK
  • Summer Scholars, the k-12 educational team and institute faculty will discuss the readings assigned for days 8-9.
  • Curriculum working groups will meet with the k-12 educational team and institute faculty to finalize their teaching module ideas 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.

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