Vintage Photos of Black Male Couples

By: Rick Andreoli

"Historically, the Afro American gay male and couple has largely been defined by everyone but themselves," writes historian Trent Kelly, who has assembled 146 vintage photographs of black male couples from the past 150 years. The images reveal themselves like an amazing lost treasure trove, because it's so rare to find representations of openly gay African Americans in pre-1960's art, literature, or photography. Kelly explains, "Afro American gay men are ignored into nonexistence in parts of black culture and are basically second class citizens in gay culture. The black church which has historically played a fundamental role in protesting against civil injustices toward its parishioners has been want to deny its gay members their right to live a life free and open without prejudice. Despite public projections of a 'rainbow' community living together in harmonious co-habitation, openly active and passive prejudices exist in the larger gay community against gay Afro Americans."

Kelly's collection pushes against the status quo, giving a loving, joyful face to gay black men like never before. Check out some images below, then see the full slideshow on his Flickr page.

For the above "Drag Cake Walk" photo, from Wikipedia:

The Cakewalk dance was developed from a "Prize Walk" done in the days of slavery, generally at get-togethers on plantations in the Southern United States... At the conclusion of a performance of the original form of the dance in an exhibit at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, an enormous cake was awarded to the winning couple. Thereafter it was performed in minstrel shows, exclusively by men until the 1890s. The inclusion of women in the cast "made possible all sorts of improvisations in the Walk, and the original was soon changed into a grotesque dance" which became very popular across the country.

Source: Color Lines