Twenty-five years after George Chauncey's field-defining text Gay New York (1994), it is time to revisit his claim that a unity exists between same-sex cultures of working-class immigrants and African-Americans. To do so, I read across a range of Harlem Renaissance texts by Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, E.M. Hull, and Jean Toomer to argue that the intimate relations and sexual cultures of black New Yorkers differed substantially from their immigrant counterparts. Building on Hortense Spillers's understanding of black sexuality as being "ungendered," I argue that black sexuality is not organized around gender status and gendered sexual acts in the way that the figures of Chauncey's world—trade, wolf, jocker, punk, fairy—are. I recover instead a cast of Renaissance sexual figures—focusing on the sheik and the sweetback—to posit an alternative account of public cultures of intimacy.


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pp. 39-54
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