Homosexuality In Harlem

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Throughout the 1920s to the 1930s, New York’s Harlem Renaissance brought a new wave of progress and radical black movement. This historical Jazz Age was essentially an emergence of new life within Harlem and the gay community. One aspect of the Harlem Renaissance that was crucial to its upbringing of progressive “New Negroes” is the black lesbian subculture that began to arise. This subculture intertwined with Afro-American jazz and the blues, working as both outlets for sexual and emotional expression and social awareness. These music genres, their lyricism, and the lesbian singers that brought life to them impacted the development of American arts in New York through a growing population of openly sexual women. Homosexuality was clearly …show more content…
This evidently presents itself in “A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem”: “the casualness toward sexuality, so common in the blues, sometimes extended to homosexual behavior (Garber, 320).” As the increasing homosexual behavior in Harlem founds its way through the blues, it demonstrated less of a stigmatizing view of sexuality and turned it into something positive, “normal,” and human. This new found embrace of sexuality, especially among black lesbians, pushed for a new way of life that, in essence, allowed a more openly expressed identity. Further supporting this analysis, Garber explains, “The blues reflected a culture that accepted sexuality, including homosexual behavior and identities, as a natural part of life (Garber, 320).” The growing and accepting culture of the Harlem Renaissance thus began to recognize sexuality as another component of identity. Similarly to Garber, “It Jus Be’s Dat Way Sometime: The Sexual Politics of Women’s Blues*” easily pinpoints the importance of black lesbians’ active involvement in the blues. The “Classic Blues” are defined as “the women’s blues of the twenties and early thirties, is a discourse that articulates a cultural and political struggle over sexual relations: a struggle that is directed against the objectification …show more content…
“The lyrics of women’s blues explore frustrations associated with love and sexuality and emphasize the simultaneously individual and collective nature of personal relationships. Sexuality is not privatized in the blues. Rather, it is represented as shared experience that is socially produced (Davis, 91).” As Davis defines women’s blues as a powerful mechanism used to further represent these acknowledged ideas of sexuality among women (especially black lesbians) of the Harlem Renaissance, the blues are then what collectively help bring together this new attitude that empowers black women and lesbians alike as sexual beings. Although lesbianism is not directly seen, this is exemplified through Bessie Smith’s famous song, “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.” Smith’s song includes lyrics “I need a little sugar in my bowl / I need a little hot dog, on my roll (Smith).” ‘”Preachin’ the Blues” has important contemporary implications in that it places women at the center of a blues aesthetic that advises women to take control of their sexuality and implicitly challenges the church’s condemnation of sexuality. It contains these

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