This event takes place in person at Charis and on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. This event is free, but registration is required for virtual attendance. Click here to register to attend virtually. Please read the in-person event guidelines at the bottom of this page to be sure you can participate in the event.
Charis welcomes Cookie Woolner in conversation with Beverly Guy-Sheftall for a discussion of The Famous Lady Lovers: Black Women and Queer Desire Before Stonewall. Black queer women have shaped American culture since long before the era of gay liberation. Cookie Woolner here uncovers the intimate lives of performers, writers, and educators such as Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Gladys Bentley, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Lucy Diggs Slowe, along with the many everyday women she encountered in the archives. This event is co-sponsored by the Gay Johnson McDougall Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion. Part of the Division of Equity and Inclusion at Agnes Scott College, the Gay Johnson McDougall Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion is committed to fostering a community that celebrates and honors the intersections of identity.
Decades prior to the Stonewall Uprising, in the 1920s and 1930s, Black "lady lovers"—as women who loved women were then called—crafted a queer world. In the cabarets, rent parties, speakeasies, literary salons, and universities of the Jazz Age and Great Depression, communities of Black lady lovers grew, and queer flirtations flourished.
Examining blues songs, Black newspapers, vice reports, memoirs, sexology case studies, and more, Woolner illuminates the unconventional lives Black lady lovers formed to suit their desires. In the urban North, as the Great Migration gave rise to increasingly racially mixed cities, Black lady lovers fashioned and participated in emerging sexual subcultures. During this time, Black queer women came to represent anxieties about the deterioration of the heteronormative family. Negotiating shifting notions of sexuality and respectability, Black lady lovers strategically established queer networks, built careers, created families, and were vital cultural contributors to the US interwar era.
Cookie Woolner is associate professor of history at the University of Memphis.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall is a Black feminist scholar, writer, and editor, who is the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and English at Spelman College, in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the founding director of the Spelman College Women's Research and Resource Center, the first at a historically Black college or university. Guy-Sheftall has published a number of texts within African American and Women’s Studies which include the first anthology on Black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1979), which she coedited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith; her dissertation, Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes Toward Black Women, 1880-1920 (Carlson, 1991); Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (New Press, 1995); an anthology she coedited with Rudolph P. Byrd entitled Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality (Indiana University Press, 2001). Her most recent publication is a coauthored monograph (with Johnnetta Betsch Cole), Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities, which was published by Random House in 2003. Upcoming publications include an anthology of Audre Lorde’s writings (with Rudolph P. Byrd and Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Oxford University Press); a new edition of But Some of Us Are Brave (with Stanlie James and Frances Foster, Feminist Press); and a collection of writings on the race/gender debate during the 2008 U.S. presidential election (with Johnnetta Betsch Cole, SUNY Press).
This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/CharisCircle?code=chariscirclepage
In-person event guidelines:
All attendees must wear a face mask at all times inside the building
We will begin seating people at 7:00 PM ET.
This event will be live-streamed via crowdcast. Click here to register to attend virtually.
As a reminder: If you are not feeling well, please do not come to the event.
If you have any questions regarding these guidelines or to request specific accessibility accommodations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at 404-524-0304
If you would like to watch the virtual event with computer-generated captions, please watch in Google Chrome and enable captions. If you have other accessibility needs or if you are someone who has skills in making digital events more accessible please don't hesitate to reach out to email@example.com. We are actively learning the best practices for this technology and we welcome your feedback as we continue to connect across distances.
By attending our event you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event seeks to provide a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), class, or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment in any form. Sexual language and imagery are not appropriate. Anyone violating these rules will be expelled from this event and all future events at the discretion of the organizers. Please report all harassment to firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
The timeless and essential anthology of Black Feminist thought--showing that Black women have always understood the need for feminism to be intersectional