How Gay Culture Blossomed During the Roaring TwentiesBreaking News
tags: LGBTQ history, 1920s, gay culture
On a Friday night in February 1926, a crowd of some 1,500 packed the Renaissance Casino in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood for the 58th masquerade and civil ball of Hamilton Lodge.
Nearly half of those attending the event, reported the New York Age, appeared to be “men of the class generally known as ‘fairies,’ and many Bohemians from the Greenwich Village section who...in their gorgeous evening gowns, wigs and powdered faces were hard to distinguish from many of the women.”
The tradition of masquerade and civil balls, more commonly known as drag balls, had begun back in 1869 within Hamilton Lodge, a black fraternal organization in Harlem. By the mid-1920s, at the height of the Prohibition era, they were attracting as many as 7,000 people of various races and social classes—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight alike.
Stonewall (1969) is often considered the beginning of forward progress in the gay rights movement. But more than 50 years earlier, Harlem’s famous drag balls were part of a flourishing, highly visible LGBTQ nightlife and culture that would be integrated into mainstream American life in a way that became unthinkable in later decades.
“In the late 19th century, there was an increasingly visible presence of gender-non-conforming men who were engaged in sexual relationships with other men in major American cities,” says Chad Heap, a professor of American Studies at George Washington University and the author of Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940.
comments powered by Disqus
- Hurricane Dorian Unearths Civil War Cannonballs at South Carolina Beach
- Ms. Monopoly is here. Psst: A woman invented the game in the first place
- 9/11 Is History Now. Here's How American Kids Are Learning About It in Class
- Why Don't We Consider Cannabis Part of the American Herbal Renaissance
- A woman who ran for president in 1872 was compared to Satan and locked up. It wasn’t for her emails.
- Historians push to create public archive of documents from massive opioid litigation
- Fake Citations Kill Historian's Career
- Jim McGrath on Podcasts and Public History
- Uncovering the History of Child Psychiatry: A Conversation with Deborah Blythe Doroshow
- Gerald Ford, Impeachment, and The Difference Between Politics and Law Enforcement