In the 1880s, a formerly enslaved Black American became the earliest-known self-described “drag queen” and the earliest-known queer activist in the United States. His name was William Dorsey Sw...
Head-to-Head: A Meeting of Inspired Minds
America’s Black Queer History
In the 1880s, a formerly enslaved Black American became the earliest-known self-described “drag queen” and the earliest-known queer activist in the United States. His name was William Dorsey Swann, and he inspired a rebellious group of butlers, coachmen, and cooks—most of them also formerly enslaved people—to risk their newly attained freedom, their livelihoods, and their reputations to create a secret world of crossdressing balls in Washington, DC—the center of American power, prestige, and influence. Swann’s organization is the only known LGBTQ+ resistance group formed until German physician Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, founded in 1897, in Berlin. In this talk, Joseph draws on previously unexplored archival sources to examine Swann’s far-reaching influence on U.S. history and culture.
In discussion with Gero Bauer, Managing Director, Center for Gender and Diversity Research, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
In cooperation with the Evangelisches Bildungszentrum Hospitalhof Stuttgart and the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum Stuttgart
Generously supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, and Berthold Leibinger Stiftung GmbH
This event took place on October 13, 2021.