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Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberrys 1957 Letters to The Ladder
Unformatted Document Text:  Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 18 early founders and members of DOB archived in the Lesbian Herstory Archives speaks directly on this point. According to Marion Glass, an early member of the New York chapter of DOB, one of the first activities of the new chapter was to contact Hansberry. “In her cordial discussion with us, Miss Hansberry reaffirmed her view that personal freedom and freedom from discrimination for the homosexual as well as for blacks would continue to receive her support. However, her business agent had advised her that open support of the homosexual would adversely affect the black civil rights movement and woul be most untimely. Miss Hansberry felt that there was about to be a major development in the civil rights movement. She asked us to be patient.” 54 This point is echoed in DOB founders when they write “Many Black women who had been involved earlier in the homophile movement found themselves forced to make a choice between two ‘causes’ that touched their lives so intimately. One of them wrote a play that was a hit on Broadway.” 55 Thus Hansberry’s approach to and critique of assimiliation is markedly different than the kind of depoliticized conformity advocated by other DOB writers including the well known science fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, who interestingly also wrote a pro-assimilationst letter the same issue of the Ladder which states, in part: “I think Lesbians themselves could lessen the public attitudes by confining their differences to their friends and not force themselves deliberately upon public notice by deliberate idiosyncracies of dress and speech; … the so-called normal does not consider that his private life is of concern to the general public; whatever he does in private, in public he makes an attempt to be courteously inconspicuous, and I believe that homosexuals and Lesbians might well do the same.” 56 But whereas Bradley situates the question of sexuality in the depoliticized context of “private life” Hansberry acknowledges the political dimensions of sexuality as it pertains to minority group oppression (at the Miller also describes some of the tensions around Rustin’s homosexuality in the civil rights movement. Garth Pauley describes how concessions to pragmatism lead to the revision of John Lewis’s historic speech. See Garth E. Pauley, “John Lewis’s ‘Serious Revolution”: Rhetoric, Resistance, and Revision at the March on Washington,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 84: 320-340. 54 Lesbian Herstory Archives, “Oral History of Daughter’s of Bilitis: Glass, Revised DOB Script, 10/9/95,” 13. 55 Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Lesbian/Woman. (San Francisco: Glide Publications, 1972) 122. 56 Marion Zimmer Bradley, “Readers Respond,” The Ladder, May 1957, 21.

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 18
early founders and members of DOB archived in the Lesbian Herstory Archives speaks directly on this
point. According to Marion Glass, an early member of the New York chapter of DOB, one of the first
activities of the new chapter was to contact Hansberry. “In her cordial discussion with us, Miss
Hansberry reaffirmed her view that personal freedom and freedom from discrimination for the
homosexual as well as for blacks would continue to receive her support. However, her business agent had
advised her that open support of the homosexual would adversely affect the black civil rights movement
and woul be most untimely. Miss Hansberry felt that there was about to be a major development in the
civil rights movement. She asked us to be patient.”
54
This point is echoed in DOB founders when they
write “Many Black women who had been involved earlier in the homophile movement found themselves
forced to make a choice between two ‘causes’ that touched their lives so intimately. One of them wrote a
play that was a hit on Broadway.”
55
Thus Hansberry’s approach to and critique of assimiliation is markedly different than the kind of
depoliticized conformity advocated by other DOB writers including the well known science fiction writer
Marion Zimmer Bradley, who interestingly also wrote a pro-assimilationst letter the same issue of the
Ladder which states, in part: “I think Lesbians themselves could lessen the public attitudes by confining
their differences to their friends and not force themselves deliberately upon public notice by deliberate
idiosyncracies of dress and speech; … the so-called normal does not consider that his private life is of
concern to the general public; whatever he does in private, in public he makes an attempt to be
courteously inconspicuous, and I believe that homosexuals and Lesbians might well do the same.”
56
But
whereas Bradley situates the question of sexuality in the depoliticized context of “private life” Hansberry
acknowledges the political dimensions of sexuality as it pertains to minority group oppression (at the
Miller also describes some of the tensions around Rustin’s homosexuality in the civil rights movement. Garth Pauley
describes how concessions to pragmatism lead to the revision of John Lewis’s historic speech. See Garth E. Pauley,
“John Lewis’s ‘Serious Revolution”: Rhetoric, Resistance, and Revision at the March on Washington,” Quarterly
Journal of Speech
, 84: 320-340.
54
Lesbian Herstory Archives, “Oral History of Daughter’s of Bilitis: Glass, Revised DOB Script, 10/9/95,” 13.
55
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Lesbian/Woman. (San Francisco: Glide Publications, 1972) 122.
56
Marion Zimmer Bradley, “Readers Respond,” The Ladder, May 1957, 21.


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