Theses and Dissertations


Thompson, Jospeh

Committee Member

Soares, Leigh

Committee Member

Hersey, Mark D.

Committee Member

Hui, Alexandra

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

Embargo 2 years

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


“‘Freakish Man’: sexual blues, sacred beliefs, and the transformation of Black queer identity, 1870-1959” investigates how queer Black men expressed their gender and sexual identities. It follows how, from the days of Reconstruction to the modern civil rights movement, queer Black men used various aspects of Black culture—particularly the blues, working-class social culture, and charismatic religion—to form identities that departed from dominant Black and white norms. The “freakish man” emerged as queer Black men cultivated legible, subversive gender and sexual identities in sacred and secular spaces of working-class Black culture that prioritized masculine heterosexuality. Though queer Black men were briefly successful in using their status as taboo but enticing social figures to enter the center of Black culture, they were gradually marginalized by the Black community as it moved towards inclusion into mainstream American society.

Available for download on Friday, May 15, 2026