You know when your (probably) white, male, straight, and cis friend asks you ‘if you could time travel to any time period, where would you go?’ Then proceed to refuse to accept answers such as ‘no where. The present is the best time to be me believe it or not’ or ‘the future’ - if you are a black wlw, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
Next time this nuisance appears answer: Harlem, 1920s.
The black lesbian subculture thrived in Harlem and was very influential. For instance, it has been inferred that the “butche/femme” patterns were first found in Harlem and thereafter became an identifiable image in other wlw subcultures.
Harlem was by no means a homophobia-free zone in the 1920s. Nevertheless, the tolerance was sufficient enough for black lesbians to socialize openly in their own communities, which white lesbians generally couldn’t do. This specific time period and place would probably maximise your personal safety AND dating life.
The black lesbians even shared dance floors, bars, and nightclubs with the heterosexuals. If this fact seems familiar to you, it may be because you’ve read of them in novels such as Home to Harlem, Strange Brother, The Big Money, and Nigger Heaven - the nightclubs they featured all had counterparts in reality.
You’ll for once get to outnumber the straights! heterosexuals sometimes quit clubs when they perceived that the gays were taking over.
Once you find your vintage girlfriend and decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with her, you can marry her! Don’t feel pressured to keep it a secret - invite all your friends and family. Large butch/femme lesbian weddings were of the ordinary. Just make sure you you masculinize one of your first names to receive your wedding license. These licenses were placed on file in the New York City Marriage Bureau and were often common knowledge among Harlem heterosexuals.
If you are bisexual you may even be treated better by the then ‘LGBTQ community’ than you are today thanks to A’Lelia Walker. Daughter to the first self made female African-American millionaire and a businesswoman, Walker is believed to have been bisexual. Her contemporaries observed that “all the women were crazy about her.” some even believed that the various men she married were merely her beards. Nevertheless, historian Lillian Faderman believes that she had much to do with the “manifest acceptance of bisexuality among the upper classes in Harlem: those who had moral reservations about bisexuality or considered it strange or decadent learnt to pretend a sophistication and suppress their disapproval if they desired Al’Lelia’s goodwill.”
I know that if I can go back I’ll make sure I also get my hair done at one of A’Lelia’s salons. If they are good enough got European princesses, Russian grand dukes, and world-renowned intellectuals, they are certainly good enough for me.
Source: Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lillian Faderman
Harlem in the 1920s & 30s, as the circuit parties of their day, the drag balls provided a startling glimpse of the national scope of gay life. Men traveled from across the country to attend the Hamilton Lodge Ball and other cities’ signature balls, and partisans trumpeted the virtues of the New York ball over its rivals in Chicago, New Orleans, and Berlin. Those who couldn’t attend the balls were treated to detailed accounts of them in the black press and Broadway gossip sheets.
If you stand just past High School Hill on Route 9 in Irvington, N.Y., and look west toward the Hudson River, you’ll see a beautiful white house with lots of columns and terra cotta tiles that evoke a Mediterranean elegance. It is one of many mansions nestled on these leafy green streets; memories carved in stone from a time when this suburban town was the jewel of the “Hudson Riviera.” Kykuit, Shadowbrook, and Nuits, Sunnyside, Hillside, and Strawberry Hill — these were the homes of robber barons and writers, judges and doctors, the 1 percent of the Gilded Age and the early 20th century.
But Villa Lewaro, that white house, was unique. It was built by Madam C. J. Walker, who was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, one of six children and the first born free. Walker rose to prominence as the first nationally successful black female business magnate in the country. She and her daughter, A'Lelia, were the hair care queens of black America. By the time she began building Villa Lewaro in 1917, the New York Times Magazine estimated her net worth at “a cool million” (a fact that didn’t stop some of the neighbors from being appalled that a black woman was moving into town).
Until recently, the Walker legacy was treated somewhat poorly by history. The house itself was nearly torn down in 1976. A'Lelia is rarely remembered at all, and when she is, it is as the prodigal daughter under whom the Walker hair care empire shrunk drastically. Or, as historian Eric Garber put it in his essay A Spectacle in Color, while “Madam Walker had been civic-minded, donating thousands of dollars to charity, A'Lelia used most of her inheritance to throw lavish parties.”
It’s easy to dismiss these events as fluff and folderol. But Walker’s parties, both in Irvington and at her Manhattan salon, The Dark Tower, played a crucial, if invisible role in the Harlem Renaissance: They provided a safe, welcoming environment for queer people at a time when there were few other social options available. While she herself was not known to be lesbian or bisexual, Walker’s parties were places where anyone could express their sexuality however they pleased.
you should really read the diviners series by libba bray here is a list of why
it’s a supernatural murder mystery set in 1920s New York
do you need more reasons than that okay i will give them to you
the list of main characters (in both books) includes: a disabled chinese american, two black brothers living harlem, a gay songwriter and his roommate/best friend an abuse survivor, the son of jewish immigrants, a boy who essentially took the super soldier serum from Captain America, the daughter of two suffragettes
the “main” character evie (and i put it in quotes bc she’s called the main character but it’s really an ensemble book) is delightfully flawed as in she’s a selfish jerk the whole time but in a weirdly endearing way BUT none of the other characters let her get away with shit
it deals with real problems of the time period and doesn’t romanticize the 20s
like straight up racism and homophobia and the treatment of immigrants and eugenics and religion and technology and drugs/alcohol are all big topics that aren’t glossed over
but at the same time both Ling and Memphis get to be real fleshed out characters who deal with stuff other than their race
GHOSTS! MURDER! LOTS OF MYSTERY AND THE GOVERNMENT COVERING STUFF UP!
it can get spooky as shit if you’re into a good scare
libba bray as an incredible writer and her words are MAGIC
also a whole lot of other stuff but i don’t want to spoil it