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Homosexuality, The Black Press, and Respectability, 1950-1960 Queering The Johnson Publishing Company

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Abstract:

White homosexuals were pushed to the boundaries of American mainstream culture in the fifties. During the “Lavender Scare,” white gay men were demonized as security risks. In African American communities however, “Drag Balls” and queer cabarets were respected ventures; queer individuals were less persecuted than in white neighborhoods. Homosexuals produced revenue-generating businesses in black neighborhoods and black popular entertainment attracted and exploited queer talents.
Black owned publishing companies, such as the Johnson Publishing Company, publicized queer events and reoriented black discourses on homosexuality. Founded in 1945 by John Johnson, the Johnson Publishing Company produced two of the most popular African American publications in the United States: Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine. During the next decade, Ebony, Jet and the Chicago Defender, published articles redefining African American sexuality, homosexuality and the respectability of certain sexual behaviors. This paper will build on cultural critic Thaddeus Russell’s claim that, prior to the ascendancy of the civil rights movement African American working-class culture was more open to non-heteronormative behavior than was the black middle class or the white population in order to analyze the broader shift at play at the intersection of sexual identities, economic ventures and racial identities in Chicago.
This paper will analyze shifting opinions on homosexuality expressed by the Johnson Publishing Company during the fifties. I will show that these publications first confirmed the generally accepted discourses of the 40s on homosexuality, focusing on gender non-conformity and queer entertainment. Secondly, I will explain how the Johnson Publishing Company, as vector of black middle-class values, aligned itself with mainstream American sexual values in the mid-fifties. Finally, I will show that, at the end of the decade, a series of articles entitled “The Their Sex,” published by the Chicago Defender crystallized new definitions of African American queer identities.
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p433929_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Cabello, Tristan. "Homosexuality, The Black Press, and Respectability, 1950-1960 Queering The Johnson Publishing Company" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p433929_index.html>

APA Citation:

Cabello, T. "Homosexuality, The Black Press, and Respectability, 1950-1960 Queering The Johnson Publishing Company" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p433929_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: White homosexuals were pushed to the boundaries of American mainstream culture in the fifties. During the “Lavender Scare,” white gay men were demonized as security risks. In African American communities however, “Drag Balls” and queer cabarets were respected ventures; queer individuals were less persecuted than in white neighborhoods. Homosexuals produced revenue-generating businesses in black neighborhoods and black popular entertainment attracted and exploited queer talents.
Black owned publishing companies, such as the Johnson Publishing Company, publicized queer events and reoriented black discourses on homosexuality. Founded in 1945 by John Johnson, the Johnson Publishing Company produced two of the most popular African American publications in the United States: Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine. During the next decade, Ebony, Jet and the Chicago Defender, published articles redefining African American sexuality, homosexuality and the respectability of certain sexual behaviors. This paper will build on cultural critic Thaddeus Russell’s claim that, prior to the ascendancy of the civil rights movement African American working-class culture was more open to non-heteronormative behavior than was the black middle class or the white population in order to analyze the broader shift at play at the intersection of sexual identities, economic ventures and racial identities in Chicago.
This paper will analyze shifting opinions on homosexuality expressed by the Johnson Publishing Company during the fifties. I will show that these publications first confirmed the generally accepted discourses of the 40s on homosexuality, focusing on gender non-conformity and queer entertainment. Secondly, I will explain how the Johnson Publishing Company, as vector of black middle-class values, aligned itself with mainstream American sexual values in the mid-fifties. Finally, I will show that, at the end of the decade, a series of articles entitled “The Their Sex,” published by the Chicago Defender crystallized new definitions of African American queer identities.


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‘An Offense to Conventional Wisdom:’ Press independence and Publisher W.E. Chilton III, 1960 to 1987

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''Do's and Don'ts:'' The Black Press, Racial Etiquette, and Black Politics of Resistance, 1956-1969


 
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