July 5, 2021

Homosexuality and the Left Before 1960


Political activism of queer people in the United States started long before the Stonewall riots in 1969. One surprising place that queer people found a home for their activism was in the Communist Party. The Communist Party of the United States was established in 1919, and from the 1920s to the 1940s the Party was influential in American politics, at the forefront of labor organizing and opposition to racism. It was the first political party in the US to be racially integrated. Some queer folks embraced the radical politics of the Party and found it to be a place where they could agitate for radical sexual politics as well. 

One of the first national gay rights organizations in the United States, The Mattachine Society, was founded in 1950 by prominent Communist Harry Hay and a group of friends in Los Angeles. However, in the early 1950s as Joseph McCarthy and others publicly linked homosexuality and Communism as threats to the 'American way of life,' homosexuals began to distance themselves from the Left to gain acceptance, and the previous links between homosexuals and the Communist Party were lost or suppressed. In 1953 Harry Hay was ousted from the Mattachine Society in part because of his Communist affiliation, which by then was considered a liability.

In this episode, Kelly  tells the history of homosexuality and the Communist Party in America in the early 20th Century and interviews Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston Aaron Lecklider, author of Love’s Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture.

Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons.  Episode image: Members of Marine Cooks and Stewards Union. Courtesy Black Heritage Society of Washington State. Public domain.

Transcript available at: https://www.unsunghistorypodcast.com/transcripts/transcript-episode-5

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Transcript

Kelly:

This is Unsung History, the podcast where we tell the stories of people and events in American history haven't gotten much notice. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then interview someone who knows a lot more than I do. Today's episode is about homosexuality and the Communist Party in the United States. Prior to 1960. There's a popular conception in America that the gay rights movement started with the Stonewall riots in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. Although the Stonewall riots were certainly an important and transformative moment in the movement, there were earlier moments of resistance, including a 1959 riot in response to police harassment at the Cooper Do-nuts Cafe in Los Angeles, a popular hangout for gay people. And a 1966 Riot at Compton's Cafeteria in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco in response to violent police harassment of drag queens and trans people. Consensual sexual relations between same sex couples were illegal everywhere in the United States until 1962, when Illinois became the first state to legalize them. And they remained illegal in 14 states all the way until the 2003, Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled that sanctions or criminal punishment for those who commit sodomy are unconstitutional. So prior to the 1960s, and even into the 2000s, queer people had good reason to keep their sexuality hidden. But even before the activism of the 1950s and 60s, there were of course queer people in the United States. A note here on terminology, the term gay to mean homosexual wasn't in popular usage until the 1960s and LGBT wasn't used until the late 1980s. In the early 20th century, the terms homosexual or sexual dissident, were in more common usage, or queer as an umbrella term. Prior to the 1960s, queer people would not have been welcomed in many political organizations. But one surprising place they were able to find a home for political activism was in the Communist Party. The Communist Party of the United States was established in 1919, after a split with the Socialist Party of America following the Russian Revolution. In the wake of World War One, with increasing labor strikes and a series of anarchist bombings, the first Red Scare took hold in America, and Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer ordered a series of violent law enforcement raids, targeting leftist radicals and anarchists. Given the danger of openness at the time, the Communist Party in America initially operated underground. Despite this, from the 1920s to the 1940s, the Communist Party was influential in American politics, at the forefront of labor organizing and the creation of labor unions, as well as opposition to racism. It was the first political party in the United States to be racially integrated. During the Great Depression, communist ideology became especially appealing to people disillusioned with capitalism, and membership in the party grew to 55,000 by the end of the 1930s. Although the Communist Party has long been thought to have been inhospitable to homosexuals in the early to mid 20th century, some queer folks embraced the radical politics of the party and found it to be a place where they could agitate for radical sexual politics as well. One of the first National Gay rights organizations in the United States, the Mattachine Society, was founded in 1950 by prominent communist Harry Hay and a group of male friends in Los Angeles, many of whom were also communists. At his request, he was expelled from the Communist Party the following year, so that he would not pose a security risk to the party, which formally forbade Party membership to homosexuals at the time, but the party did declare Hay a "lifelong friend of the people." It was around this same time that US Senator Joseph McCarthy was stoking fears of communism in the second Red Scare when he claimed that a large number of communists had infiltrated the US State Department. In parallel in what became known as the Lavender Scare, the Senate began an investigation into the government's employment of homosexuals. McCarthy, along with Roy Cohn, and with the help of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, were responsible for the firing of hundreds of gay men and women from government employment. McCarthy and others publicly linked homosexuality and communism as threats to the American way of life. In response, the Homophile Movement that appeared in the 1950s distanced itself from leftist groups and politics. Homosexuals who wanted to be accepted by society needed to prove themselves model American citizens, not leftist sympathizers, and the previous links between homosexuals and the Communist Party were lost or suppressed. In 1953, Harry Hay was ousted from the Mattachine Society that he founded in part because of his communist affiliation, which by then was considered a liability by the more conservative members of the society. In his book Love's Next

Meeting:

the Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture, Aaron Lecklider, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has recovered a rich history of queer communists in the United States, in the decades before the Lavender Scare, who saw their sexual dissidence and their leftist sympathies in alignment with each other. To help us learn more, I'm joined now by Aaron to discuss his research and findings in Love's Next Meeting. Hi, Aaron, thanks for joining me.

Aaron Lecklider:

Thank you so much for having me.

Kelly:

Yeah. So when I started this podcast, I knew there were things in American history, I didn't know, but I thought I maybe knew what I didn't know. And this is one of those cases, where had you not written this book, I would have had no idea that this was a whole area of American history that I just didn't know at all. So. So thanks for that.

Aaron Lecklider:

Well, thanks for that.

Kelly:

I want to start there, I think. So how, how did you know that this was an area that that needed to be recovered? Like, how did you get into this topic and realize that there was a whole area here to research?

Aaron Lecklider:

Yeah, it's really there's multiple points of entry. But I'll just preface by saying there were plenty of points in researching this book when I didn't know if it was possible. And the primary reason for that was that there were so many pressures that made maintaining any kinds of records of this history, incredibly dangerous. So the place where I entered into it was actually through literature. When I was reading radical fiction from the Depression Era, I was just struck by how frequently queer characters, queer themes came up in novels and short stories and whatnot. And it just made me wonder why was this happening? Was this exclusive to literature? Or was it happening on the ground through lived experiences. And so I just started pulling it any thread I can find. And what I discovered was that, while a lot of what I think we would like to be able to learn about homosexuality in the left before 1960, was very effectively suppressed, out of legitimate fear by the people who were thinking about this kind of thing, there were still enough records there to weave some kind of narrative about what, what this political convergence looked like. So I sort of came into it unsure what I would be able to find, and was pleasantly surprised. And also impressed by the bravery of folks who did, in fact, allow us to be able to access this history, in spite of tremendous pressure not to.

Kelly:

So then let's talk some about that process of finding the sources, of recovering this because you have this sort of, a massive number of sources in this book. So you're looking at archives, you're looking at literature, you're, you know, reading, I believe the entire history of the run of New Masses. So you know, how did you figure out sort of what, where to look where to go? And, you know, in the entire sort of history of literature of America in the 20th century, which pieces to be looking at, you know, what, what does that process look like?

Aaron Lecklider:

Well, one thing that I'll say is what you see in the book is also where I actually sort of struck gold as it were, and there were plenty of places where I didn't, so not to digress too much, but at one point, I was extremely excited to find out that V. F. Calverton, who edited Modern Quarterly, had written an unpublished essay called Welcome to Fairyland in the 1930s. And so I rushed down to New York and went to the New York Public Library and grabbed it this folder and discovered it was actually a defense of fairy tales. So there were plenty of instances when I was searching for something that didn't pan out. But then on the other hand, I was very interested in this poet John Malcolm Brinnin. And so my partner happened to be at a conference in Philadelphia that I went with him to. And I said, I'm just gonna drive up to Newark, Delaware. And look at these papers just in case there's something and it turned into a complete treasure trove that unlocked this whole network of leftists, that then I was at Princeton, looking at John Malcolm Brinnin's boyfriend, Kimon Friar's papers there, and, you know, so there were these kinds of threads that I just just would find, and then just try and pursue and a lot of these were buried histories. So actually finding the records, especially of the lived experience, things like the print run on New Masses, I knew that leftists were not all but many were reading New Masses at the time. And I thought, well, I have to do that too, because that was what they were reading back back then. So that part was kind of less fraught. But finding the actual individuals, I had no idea that Ruth Erickson and Eleanor Stevenson, who are two queer women who were living in Connecticut. For some reason, their papers were out in Oregon, and I just thought, well, I just want to look and see what they had to say, when I was looking at another archive out there. And again, they kept all of these letters. And so I was just surprised by that. Who knows how many more of these are out there that I didn't find, because a lot of this was either not preserved or was just not foregrounded in, you know, the the scholarship that was pointing me in their direction. So it really was a bit of a, I don't know, it was like foraging for mushrooms or something. And just just, when I found them, it was just pure joy, to find that there was something there. And again, you know, we're not supposed to remember this history. And so you have to kind of stitch together what you can from the sources that survived.

Kelly:

For someone like me, who you know, has some knowledge of 20th century American history, but not a deep knowledge of either the Left or LGBTQ populations, I guess the thing that really struck me because I think so much now in politics, about identity and identities and, you know, group cohesion for what you refer to in the book as sexual dissidents, because that's what they refer to themselves then. But, you know, the the queer community largely, was there a sense of community? Was this an identity that people would have felt they had? Was it a piece of themselves that they were suppressing? Like, what, what would that have looked like, you know, in a way to sort of understand why they would be attracted to the Left and the Communist Party?

Aaron Lecklider:

Yeah, that's really fabulous question. And I think that it to answer it, we have to kind of think about what we already sort of know about queer lives before 1960. And a lot of that is the kind of weird push-pull between openness and hiding. And I think that navigating the public and the private dimensions of sexual dissidents was something that was constantly an ebb and flow for much of the 20th century. And the prioritization of the sort of public performance of sexual identity was something that was politicized a little bit later, towards towards the end of the 20th century. But the lived experiences predated that kind of politicization that happened. You know, oftentimes, people use Stonewall as a shorthand for that. That was that was something that was not happening in an organized way until you get to the 1950s. So I was sort of fascinated by a couple of questions. One was, I had this sort of narrative ingrained in me that said, well, the left was very inhospitable to queer people. And that seemed strange to me, because the left was so committed to all forms of revolution, and in fits and starts not perfectly, but was certainly prioritizing anti racism and trying to foreground the voices and experiences of women, and of course, working class people. And I just thought it was a little strange that there was no space for sexual dissidents in that. And so I think that what I found was while the Left was not necessarily naming queer people, there was an energy in pushing for some kind of liberation against a repressive state that nonetheless spoke to queer people even when they weren't named and they were named sometimes; there were certainly occasions where they were named. But I think that, you know, absent this kind of push for a politics of visibility that really takes hold, you know, in the 60s and after, or maybe the 50s. But, you know, absent this demand for visibility as the central crux of what queer politics should look like, the revolutionary potential of opposing a state that oppressed people, that became the point of entry far more than a kind of identitarian politics that said, I need a movement that names me, it was a movement that named the person who was against me, and you know, or the state. So that was sort of what struck me at the time.

Kelly:

Yeah. And I think what's so fascinating is there's a lot of talk now about intersectionality, and different groups sort of coming together and understanding common struggles and, and that's clearly happening in the the 20s, the 30s, the 40s, on the Left, in ways that, I think have largely been forgotten, or, you know, intentionally suppressed, not just the, the sexual dissidents, but but you were just talking about anti racism. And you know, that these are things that are not sort of commonly explored when we think about communism. Is that because of the the lingering effects of McCarthyism, that you know, we sort of look back and just think, oh, communists, bad, you know, that, that no matter what else we've sort of come from since McCarthyism, that there is something there that sort of represses this, this very rich history.

Aaron Lecklider:

Yeah. And I think that McCarthyism, as you, as you mentioned, here is a real was a really powerful force. So the forgotten in the subtitle to my book, The Forgotten History. That, for me, was not a calling out of scholars, though, certainly, I think that there's always room for improvement in the work that we do. But it was really a indexing of the ways that McCarthyism made remembering criminal, basically. Turned remembering this past into a crime and the way that responses to that created this climate for disavowing the history that was there. You know, in 1932, John Pittman wrote an editorial in a Black radical newspaper in San Francisco with the title "Prejudice Against Homosexuals," and really connected his work as a Black radical to pushing against the kind of antipathy towards homosexuals that he was observing in San Francisco and made those kinds of connections between anti racism and opposing this other form of discrimination. We don't start gay history there, right? When we think about gay politics, I guess I should say, are sort of gay liberation and organizing around sexuality, we don't tend to start there. And I think that the reason for that is in large measure, because it was part of a broader movement that wasn't, that wasn't centralizing gay people necessarily. But you know, the kind of intersectionality that you're talking about here, has now become something that is foundational to a lot of the radical movements we see today, you know, so Black Lives Matter has been an unbelievable force, for challenging so many dimensions of American society. And it doesn't have to name Black Queer Lives Matter, even though the movement has been largely organized by Black queer people. And that doesn't diminish the impact, you know, the liberation that these capacious social movements are fighting for, oftentimes, can work in multiple nodes. And there's something really powerful in that, but there's something really dangerous in that. And so when you do have these moments of repression, I think that the targets tend to be really victimized. You know, I hate to use the word victimized, because it's so disempowering, but you know, victimized by the suppression of their own stories, you know, the danger in narrating their own experiences. And that was something that I think was really common to people on the left and to queer people. So, you know, it's sort of a double whammy, in the case of this history.

Kelly:

So obviously, you're recovering a history, so there's a lot that you're finding that maybe was unexpected. Were there particular things that sort of jumped out at you as the sort of most unexpected things that you either didn't think you'd be able to find at all or stories that were just sort of so overwhelmingly interesting that had been completely hidden previously.

Aaron Lecklider:

I think I was more surprised by the documents around lived experience. So in some ways when I was going through New Masses, I was less surprised that there was so much material around sexuality because I already knew that they had had to push against obscenity regulations, because radical content was always sort of suppressed anyway, so they were just deft getting around postmaster and whatnot. So that was a little bit less surprising to me. But I was more surprised by the individuals who held on to those letters and even donated them to archives and diaries and things. And it was sort of a mixed bag. So Ruth Erickson and Eleanor Stevenson, who I mentioned earlier, I was really thrilled to find that not only did they maintain correspondence that was quite open about their relationship, but within that correspondence, they also connected their sexual politics with their, with their radical politics in really kind of personal and intimate ways. So Ruth Erickson wrote a poem for Eleanor Stevenson on her birthday that essentially described Eleanor Stevenson's gender in ways that were incredibly non binary. So there were references to male gender, female gender, relational gender, that were sort of not what I expected to find at that time. But the poem concluded with the line, "the people, yes," which was a common rallying cry on the Left, and in that case, it was repurposed to describe the many people embodied in one, one sort of gender variant individual. So that was really thrilling to me to find that not only that was there, but that it was preserved, and it somehow made its way into an archive. That was surprising. But the other thing that was surprising to me was how carefully a lot of these lived experiences were navigated in terms of how they were preserved. So Betty Millard, whose papers are at Smith College, kept this diary and in the 1930s, there's all kinds of material around her radical activities, but also her same sex affairs. And she actually took a knife, sort of razor blade to some of the pages to excise passages that were dangerous for some reason, and I can't know exactly what's in them. But there was something in that gesture, the gesture of both preservation saying, I have to actually remove these sections, because I want the rest of it to remain. That felt very brave, and, and very urgent to me. But then also the sort of heartbreak of knowing that there were certain dimensions that were so dangerous that they just couldn't be remembered. That was, that was a sort of heartbreak too. So I think I was really surprised by how carefully the archival evidence demonstrated that negotiation of what what could be remembered and what could not be remembered. And, you know, I'm, you know, when people say this all the time, but it was just like, such an honor to be able to have these individuals' lives made available to me, and I don't think that that was accidental.

Kelly:

Yeah, I think that that's such a fascinating piece, this idea of remembering and wanting to be remembered or not wanting to be remembered. And, and what that might tell us about sort of the larger scope, not just of this story, but in general of what we know about history. You know, what, not just things that have sort of been lost to time, but things that have been intentionally suppressed from from the history. Is there a disconnect? So there's people like Betty Millard, who were, you know, excising pieces. Are there people? You mentioned, the people who were who are brave, you know, are there people who were less careful? And, you know, what, what sort of effect did that have on their lives that that they were maybe a little more open about these experiences?

Aaron Lecklider:

Yes. So one of the people that I write about in this book is a Black gay writer named Willard Motley. And he was followed by the FBI. So he has an FBI file, so we can piece together some of his movements through that. But he eventually moved to Mexico, presumably, to get away from American racism, and also McCarthyism. So he moved to Mexico and you know, in some respects, I don't know if that impacted his tendency to preserve absolutely everything, but the amount of papers that he left behind, you know, I spent weeks looking through his papers out in Illinois, and I I scratched the surface, he left so much. And so I don't know if that was connected to the fact that he was he left, you know, he left the US, presumably, you know, in part to escape that kind of pressure so we could learn more. And in the case of Motley, the most interesting thing that I found were unpublished stories that were really queer, from the 1940s. And, and also drafts of his novel that was really ruthlessly edited for publication by his publisher. But you can go back to the drafts and see Oh, my God, he wrote this unbelievably radical queer novel in the 1940s. And the version that we got still had the palimpsest of that, but imagine if we'd had, you know, the whole thing. So the one other thing that I'll say on that point is, because I was in some cases able to access FBI files, and I'm, I'm presuming that maybe 10 years down the line, I'm going to get more that I requested years ago, they take a long time to come in. But some folks, you could really reconstruct this incredible pressure that they felt by putting their personal papers in conversation with the FBI file. So I sort of knew more than they did. So Edward Melcarth who was an artist whose image is on the cover of the book and who the book opens with, was quite hounded by the FBI. And he wrote letters describing this sort of sense of paranoia as a gay leftist, that he was being followed, that his passport was being taken away. And he would recount these kinds of incidents in his life, when he just felt like he was being surveilled and being followed and harassed, really. And then you look at the FBI file, and everything he said was true. The things that are in the file actually confirm the things that he's sort of convinced he's cracking up, you know, he's convinced he's going mad. So there's also this weird way that we get multiple layers to the story that even the participants themselves didn't necessarily necessarily have. So, yeah, some of the people were just brave and kept everything, sometimes we get more than they could have even possibly preserved themselves.

Kelly:

So in the final two chapters of your book, you, you talk about these sort of shifts from where we are in the 20s 30s 40s, into first at this Popular Front movements, and then they move into the Cold War. It was great for me, because I read a lot of historical fiction. And so you know, so often I hear about a character sort of going off to the Spanish Civil War and thought, "why" and, you know, of course, the novels don't go into that. So can you talk a little bit about what, what that looks like, in in general for, for communists, but then in particular, what that meant for the sexual dissidents?

Aaron Lecklider:

Yeah, I think it's classic situation of the best of times, and the worst of times. So obviously, the fascist, or the rise of fascism was the worst of times. And it really produced a very existential threat that required all hands on deck. So for leftists working in the US some of the more revolutionary overthrow-the-state rhetoric shifted to aligning with anybody that was willing to fight against fascism in the interest of a greater good to stop what was happening globally, in its tracks. And that sort of shifted the discourse away from this kind of revolutionary overthrow, towards a kind of version of radicalism that was trying to welcome everybody into the into the big tent. And, you know, I think that that probably sounds less radical than it was there were nuances to it that really were not producing this kind of, you know, we was the hands across America, kind of version of that it was. It still had an anti capitalist core to it. But it did allow for a more expansive democratization of the language that was used to talk about revolutionary politics. And that opened the door, I think, a little bit for queer people to say, okay, we want to be part of this, like, we want to be part of this narrative of who is an American, and that I think that that really paved the way for some of the gay rights movement in the 1950s. But it also the, the the other side of that was that it also made possible, I think, a kind of political movement that could disaggregate sexuality from other forms of liberation. So it became possible for a gay rights movement to be formed by former communists that focus so intensely and exclusively on gay people that it didn't necessarily have that same self consciousness about the ways that racism was actually also part of a shared struggle and, and sexism and, and these other pieces sort of there was a new space for them to fall to the wayside a little bit. So again, I don't want to suggest that this was something that was entirely pernicious. I think that it was a good thing that there was a vocal political movement advocating for gay rights. But I also think that that movement didn't stop evictions, it didn't end racism, and you know, even segregation, the, you know, when, when the gay rights movement formed in the 1950s, it was still a period when Jim Crow laws were in effect, and it really had nothing to say about that. And so I do think that something was lost in moving away from that kind of coalition building. But it also emerged out of a period of existential crisis that that, you know, it's it's a little easier, maybe with hindsight, to say, what went wrong?

Kelly:

Yeah. And so I think that that leads into then this, this Homophile Movement, in the 50s, this idea that, we're going to stop talking about sort of sex and vice and talk about sort of social relationships and being good capitalists. And, you know, I think that I, I could see a through line, we're recording this on the six year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, legalizing gay marriage. And so I could see sort of a through line from that to this focus on marriage, you know, to the exclusion, to some degree have lots of other things that that we could want in in gay rights and trans rights. And so, you know, can you talk to them about that, that sort of moving away from radicalization into sort of a very narrow conception, really, of what, what it means to to be visible, to be accepted? And how to do that in American culture?

Aaron Lecklider:

Yeah, I think that these are certainly perennial conversations that happen about not only what the relationship is between sex and sexuality, and radical politics, but also what the relation is between radical politics and sort of practice practical fights for, you know, basic rights. And I think it's always something that's been uncomfortable, and you see some of these things even emerging before the gay rights movement. But I, but I do think that there's something really powerful about the ways that movements that are revolutionary struggles, have tried to push for a society that is better for everyone, you know, this better for everyone. And, and so, you know, to my mind, the kind of liberationist revolutionary politics runs from the left through, you know, Black nationalism, through, you know, Black Lives Matter, you know, there's this kind of radical thread that, to me, feels like a space of hope for queer people that's not necessarily oriented around, let's get this or that, right, let's get changed this or that law, but sees the struggles of queer people as part of a much larger form of of social change. And I, you know, I, I think it's a little bit of a crude opposition that gets set up oftentimes, especially in you know, hot takes, and, you know, cable news or whatever, that says, you know, there's pro marriage and anti marriage, gay politics, and I, you know, I don't think that there's many people who would advocate for restrictive marriage laws, even on the left, even even people who are committed to these kinds of like, broader forms of social change. But the question is, you know, where does the energy go, you know, what is the thing and how do you know, when you're done, if you if you if your movement is defined by a narrowly defined outcome, once you reach that, you know, you either disappear or you just move on to the next achievable outcome and, and that can that can be really challenging for a movement to maintain momentum. So I'm sort of think there's something powerful about thinking about these revolutionary struggles that continue, that persist that maybe shape, shape shift a little bit but continue to exert pressure on liberation for a much, much more expansive swaths of the population and, ou know, than just getting this r that right.

Kelly:

Yeah, definitely. I heard a podcast recently with Sasha Issenberg, who's just published a book about gay marriage and the 25 year struggle. And you know that that is part of like, why was the successful? Well, it was successful, because there was a particular thing they were going for, and they got it and they were done. Right, but, but that doesn't then keep that energy going to other other rights. So how can people get your wonderful book,

Aaron Lecklider:

Go to your local independent bookseller, or your online website that is not attached to a gigantic Corporation, and keep those indies alive. But it's available in pretty much any bookstore, online bookseller.

Kelly:

Excellent. I'll put a link through bookshop.org so people can can find it there. It's a it's a great read. And I'm, I'm so excited to have learned this part of history that I just didn't know anything about.

Aaron Lecklider:

Thank you so much for having me.

Teddy:

Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode at UnsungHistoryPodcast.com. o the best of our knowl dge, all audio and images used y Unsung History are in the p blic domain, or are used with ermission. You can find us on witter, or Instagram @Unsun __History or on Facebook at nsung History Podcast. To ontact us with questions or e isode suggestions, please em il Kelly@UnsungHistoryPodca t.com. If you enjoyed this po cast, please rate and review an tell your friends!

Aaron Lecklider

Aaron Lecklider is a cultural historian and professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His work focuses on the history of sexuality, class, race, and gender in the twentieth-century United States. His most recent book, Love’s Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture, explores the relationship between homosexuality and the Left in the US between 1920 and 1960. His first book, Inventing the Egghead: The Battle over Brainpower in American Culture, studied how working-class Americans, particularly women, African Americans, and immigrants, imagined themselves as intellectuals outside the walls of the ivory tower.

A cultural critic with an energetic voice, Lecklider also writes frequently about culture, politics, literature, film, and art for venues such as Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, Abusable Past, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and he curated an exhibit of recent work by the artist Avram Finkelstein at UMass Boston’s Harbor Gallery in 2013.

Aaron is based in Boston and Provincetown.