skip to Main Content
Actor Jack Brown (in drag) with unknown dancing partner, performing the Cake-Walk, in Paris, 1903. From the David Hoffman / Boaz Postcard Collection, National Museum of American History

Holtzbrinck Lecture

William Dorsey Swann, Queen of Drag: Uncovering America’s Black Queer History

In his new book, House of Swann: Where Slaves Became Queens – and Changed the World, Channing Joseph tells the story of William Dorsey Swann, a formerly enslaved Black man who became the earliest-known self-described drag queen and the first known American queer activist. Drawing on previously unexplored archival sources, Joseph describes how Swann inspired a rebellious group of butlers, coachmen, and cooks—most of them also formerly enslaved people—to create a secret world of crossdressing balls in the 1880s and ’90s in Washington, DC, the center of American power, prestige, and influence. Joseph describes Swann’s remarkable life and explores how anti-Blackness and queerphobia have intersected throughout US history.

11 Nov 21
Gender Studies
18:30 - 20:00
Online via Zoom (6:30 p.m. CET / 12:30 ET)

This event took place on November 11, 2021.

Back To Top