Not Straight, Not White

Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis

By Kevin Mumford

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5221-4
    Published: February 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2684-0
    Published: March 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2685-7
    Published: January 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5019-5
    Published: January 2016

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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Awards & distinctions

Bonnie and Vern Bullough Book Award Winner, Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality

A Stonewall Honor Book in Nonfiction, American Library Association Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Round Table

Finalist, Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, The Publishing Triangle

Finalist, Lambda Literary Award, LGBTQ Studies, Lambda Literary

This compelling book recounts the history of black gay men from the 1950s to the 1990s, tracing how the major movements of the times—from civil rights to black power to gay liberation to AIDS activism—helped shape the cultural stigmas that surrounded race and homosexuality. In locating the rise of black gay identities in historical context, Kevin Mumford explores how activists, performers, and writers rebutted negative stereotypes and refused sexual objectification. Examining the lives of both famous and little-known black gay activists—from James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin to Joseph Beam and Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald—Mumford analyzes the ways in which movements for social change both inspired and marginalized black gay men.

Drawing on an extensive archive of newspapers, pornography, and film, as well as government documents, organizational records, and personal papers, Mumford sheds new light on four volatile decades in the protracted battle of black gay men for affirmation and empowerment in the face of pervasive racism and homophobia.

About the Author

Kevin Mumford is professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For more information about Kevin Mumford, visit the Author Page.


“Indispensable for those who reject the erasure of black queerness in American civil rights history."--The Guardian

“The book is an amazing reference that gives historical context of Black America around some of the most taboo subjects in our history.”--A&U Magazine

“It’s easy to say that Mumford speaks the truth to power throughout Not Straight, Not White--because he does. Yet, a more nuanced treasure that Mumford gifts us with is a methodology for intimacy--to discover how in our closeness, throughout our vulnerabilities, and by articulating our failures we can (and must somehow) arrive at the love we all, each one of us, so desperately need.”--CLA Journal

“A wonderful primer for understanding the cultural context of and many important figures in black gay history.”--American Literature

Not Straight, Not White is a landmark book that adds a different voice, approach, and substance to the field of black queer studies. A joy to read, this astonishing and refreshing book is sure to be read closely, lauded, and debated.”--Marlon Ross, University of Virginia

“In Not Straight, Not White, Kevin Mumford sets the gay historical record 'straight' by deftly demonstrating the ways in which black gays played a pivotal role in the social and political movements of the last fifty years. Through meticulously researched archival material, Mumford persuasively argues that black gay men were neither silent nor passive participants in the gay or black liberation struggle. From the March on Washington to the AIDS epidemic, this book recuperates a history that has been shaded by other historical accounts that either erase black gay presence altogether or offer this presence as tangential. With this book Mumford affirms the humanity and fierceness of black gay men everywhere.”--E. Patrick Johnson, author of Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South