Abstract

Photographs taken in Pittsburgh's Hill District during the 1940s and 1950s show African American female impersonators riding in street parades and performing in front of jazz bands. Many historians depict queer American life in this era as invisible and isolated, but these photographs, the Pittsburgh Courier, and residents' recollections offer a more complex narrative. The Hill's cultural diversity, black-white sex district, and risqué entertainment subculture lent the neighborhood a "live and let live" ethos that facilitated gender crossing in the neighborhood's nightclubs, streets, beauty shops, and churches. Here female impersonators interacted with their neighbors, introducing them to the reality that "boys" will not always be "boys." Thus female impersonators carved out a visible, enduring, and, at times, intimate presence for themselves in the Hill.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 983-1011
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-06
Open Access
No
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