UNC’s Michener Library displays LGBT Influence on Harlem Renaissance exhibit

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The LGBT community’s influence on the Harlem Renaissance is displayed in the Mari Michener Library. Photo by Jovana Caicedo.

A new exhibit at the University of Northern Colorado Michener Library is displaying the roles of LGBTQ people during the Harlem Renaissance. The Colorado LGBT History Project, a program of The Center on Colfax, in Denver put together this gallery. The title of the gallery is “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and it shows the attitudes of acceptance for the LGBTQ community.

The Harlem Renaissance was a period of exploration for the African American community in the arts and in the literature between 1917 until 1940. Contributions made by the LGBTQ community are often not talked about in history. 

Similarly, the Colorado LGBTQ History Project showed an active LGBTQ community in Colorado’s Five Points neighborhood. They examined the prevalence of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado, during the 1920s, and segregation. In a small plaque, they looked at the effects discrimination had on the Harlem Renaissance artists as they traveled to Five Points. For instance, many of the performers could not stay at the places where they were performing. As a result, a large presence of LGBTQ people set up community spaces where they could be themselves, and such as the Rossonian Lounge. 

Within the exhibit, a famous writer and poet, Langston Hugues, is claimed to be bisexual or gay because of his known associations and clues found in his poems. Similarly, Zora Neale Hurston is speculated to have had romantic relationships with women and men. The gallery mentions their collaboration in founding the journal “Fire!” which dealt with issues of homosexuality, prostitution, and experiences of African Americans.

Concrete examples of LGBT presence in the Harlem Renaissance include Gladys Bentley and James Baldwin. 

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Bentley known for wearing a signature white male suit became a prominent pianist and singer. She lived as an open lesbian and would change the lyrics of well-known songs to make them explicitly homosexual. 

Examples of LGBT presence in the Harlem Renaissance include Gladys Bentley and James Baldwin. Bentley was known for wearing a signature white male suit. Photo by Jovana Caicedo.

Baldwin, a groundbreaking writer, is known for his short stories exploring racism and homophobia. He was open about his preferences for both men and women claiming fluid sexuality. 

Projects such as these bring out more of the rich history of both this country and the state


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