Part 3: Civil Rights and Gay Identities in Bronzeville (1955-1970)

During the Civil Rights movement, African American gay men participated in several organizations that tolerated their sexuality if they were closeted, while African American lesbians who participated in several women’s organization were accepted on the basis of their sexuality. Some Black gay males had responsabilities in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Community and the Congress of Racial Equality. Many lesbians participated in the Chicago Women’s Liberation Movement.

Several male artists such as musician Billy Strayhorn or writer Williard Motley lived closeted lives. However, Lorraine Hansberry and Gwendolyn Brookes were more open about their sexuality. This discrimination led many African American gay men to migrate to the North Side while many African American lesbians remained on the South Side, explaining the development of African American lesbian bars, such as Maxine’s, in the 1960s.