Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America

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2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Although the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City symbolically mark the start of the gay rights movement, individuals came together long before the modern era to express their same-sex romantic and sexual attraction toward one another, and in a myriad of ways. Some reflected on their desires in quiet solitude, while others endured verbal, physical, and legal harassment for publicly expressing homosexual interest through words or actions.

Long Before Stonewall seeks to uncover the many iterations of same-sex desire in colonial America and the early Republic, as well as to expand the scope of how we define and recognize homosocial behavior. Thomas A. Foster has assembled a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary collection of original and classic essays that explore topics ranging from homoerotic imagery of black men to prison reform to the development of sexual orientations. This collection spans a regional and temporal breadth that stretches from the colonial Southwest to Quaker communities in New England. It also includes a challenge to commonly accepted understandings of the Native American berdache. Throughout, connections of race, class, status, and gender are emphasized, exposing the deep foundations on which modern sexual political movements and identities are built.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Illuminate[s] the complexity, breadth, and social impact of sexuality in history.”
-The Gay & Lesbian Review

“A powerful interdisciplinary compilation that will keep specialists and general readers thoroughly engaged. . . . Long Before Stonewall redirects our attention to a period of American history that for too long has been undervalued as a field for scholarly inquiry into sexuality.”
-Journal of the Early Republic

“Half the 14 essays in this interdisciplinary study of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century America are reprints—though it’s useful to have work that appeared in academic journals collected in one place. Among original work, Ramon A. Gutierrez's revisionist perspective on Native American berdache will raise the most eyebrows: rather than exalt their same-sex spirituality, fashionable among gay liberationists and radical faeries alike, the author's theory is that they led lives of sexual ‘humiliation and endless work, not of celebration and veneration.’ Among the reprints, Caleb Crain's account of a romantic triangle among three Philadelphia men that began in 1786, culled from their diaries, is the sweetest. Several essays draw on court records dating back as far as three hundred years to unearth queer lives, while others glean an intriguing and instructive glimpse of the past through a reading of Colonial-era fiction and journalism.”
-Q Syndicate

“Thoughtful, persuasive, solidly constructed, and likely to endure the test of time.”

“An excellent introduction to the dynamic new work on sexuality in colonial and early national America, which not only expands our understanding of early America but forces us to rethink paradigms and periodizations that have long governed histories of sexuality in the U.S. A valuable contribution.”
-George Chauncey,author of Why Marriage?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814727492
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2007
  • Pages: 414
  • Product dimensions: 1.06 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas A. Foster is Professor of History at DePaul University, in Chicago, and author of Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America, and Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past. He is also editor of Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality (NYU Press, 2007), New Men: Manliness in Early America (NYU Press, 2011), and Documenting Intimate Matters: Primary Sources for a History of Sexuality in America. Foster tweets at @ThomasAFoster.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Long Before Stonewall
Thomas A. Foster
Part I Colonial Native Americas
1 Warfare, Homosexuality, and Gender Status Among American Indian Men in the Southwest
Ramón A. Gutiérrez
2 Weibe-Town and the Delawares-as-Women
Gunlög Fur
3 “Abominable Sin” in Colonial New Mexico
Tracy Brown
Part II Colonial British America
4 “The Cry of Sodom”: Discourse, Intercourse, and Desire in Colonial New England
Richard Godbeer
5 Border Crossings
Anne G. Myles
6 Hermaphrodites and “Same-Sex” Sex in Early America
Elizabeth Reis
vii7 Mapping an Atlantic Sexual Culture
Clare A. Lyons
Part III Romantic Bonds in the Early Republic
8 An Excerpt from Surpassing the Love of Men
Lillian Faderman
9 Leander, Lorenzo, and Castalio
Caleb Crain
10 The Swan of Litchfield
Lisa L. Moore
Part IV Reformers in the New Nation
11 Sexual Desire, Crime, and Punishment in the Early Republic
Mark E. Kann
12 The Black Body Erotic and the Republican Body Politic,1790–1820
John Saillant
13 What’s Sex Got to Do with It?
Laura Mandell
14 In a French Position: Radical Pornography and Homoerotic Society in Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond or the Secret Witness
Stephen Shapiro
John D’Emilio
About the Contributors
About the Editor

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