150 Years of Black Male Couples

By Nick Delmacy | Posted May 11 2012 | 5 Comments  

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 It can be argued today that, outside of the military, true camaraderie amongst American men of color has dramatically declined over the years. Black American men in particular have created an atmosphere amongst one another where a mere glance is interpreted as either a prelude to physical violence or the desire for anal rape. This was not always the case.

Amateur historian Trent Kelly spent years scouring pawn shops, garage sales and eBay for an amazingly impressive collection of vintage photographs from the mid-19th to 20th century showing men of color displaying that camaraderie that is sorely missed. From average citizens to military men, most telling of all is how intimate the men appear in the photos.

Whether posing extremely close to one another or going as far as touching, these men brazenly immortalized their affection in a time when the image of American masculinity and manhood wasn’t as blurred as it is today. While many of the men featured in the photos are merely of friends and family, some of the images clearly capture the companionship of homosexual couples.

From Trent Kelly:


 
Some of these images are sure to be gay and others may not. The end result is speculative at best for want in applying a label. Not every gesture articulated between men was an indication of male to male intimacies. Assuredly, what all photographs in this book have in common are signs of Afro American male affection and love that were recorded for posterity without fear and shame. Friendships where men often wrote romantically to one another, walked arm in arm were not uncommon to the straight and gay men alike during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Depending on economic situation, many even slept together and this may have precluded or included physical intimacy between the sheets.
 
 
Kelly goes on to note that many of the photos contain inscriptions on the back that verify the romantic relationships of some of the men featured. This collection is truly inspiring and shows that black male love, companionship and camaraderie is nothing new.
 
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About the Author
Nick Delmacy

Nick is a founder, editor and the pop culture expert at Cypher Avenue. Serving as the designer and webmaster of the site, he is the architect of The Cypher Avenue Matrix.

   
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5 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. Omar Marks | July 7th, 2013
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    These are images I think all americans need to see this. Gay didnt just pop up in the 80s or 90s. I do believe that black gay men have been around since the roman days. I also believe we need to educate the young brothas who are coming out and show them these images.

  2. Robbie | July 7th, 2013
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    Yeah, this goes hand in hand where I touched on (in my comment on the masculinity article) how masculinity in many African communities mirrors behaviors that is presently seen as feminine. However, when you rewind time those same behaviors, gestures, and mannerisms were heavily done in American yesteryear. Only as years progressed and HETEROSEXUALS redefined what masculinity is did these behaviors change.

    But, looking at these photos it shows that during simpler times being a man and showing affection was a behavior of masculinity. It’s great that these are being showcased. They not only reveal black homosexual coupling has been prevalent, but time has changed to where masculinity (be a man hetero or homo) has become a stereotypical caricature of its former self.

    • Nick D | July 7th, 2013
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      Sorry. The majority of these photos don’t support your statement. I don’t see purses, lipstick or flamboyant mannerisms/clothing on any of these men. Showing affection and camaraderie has never been solely a feminine/masculine trait, even today.

  3. Will | July 7th, 2013
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    This is what I’m referring to when I talk about how many things that are considered masculine nowadays are a social construct. As you said and as many of us know, many of the brothers pictured here are heterosexual, but it was well accepted for two friends to be close with one another without anyone thinking of it being anything but friendship. Nowadays, brothers are so uptight about masculinity that anything that goes beyond a two second complicated handshake can be perceived as effeminate and gay. If you want to talk about masculinity being redefined, this is what you should be talking about.

    • Nick D | July 7th, 2013
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      This is reaching I think. Showing affection or camaraderie has never been considered “less masculine” it has only been conditioned with us to be considered “more homosexual.” There is a difference. Today, no one would deny that a masculine man hugging another after being reunited is no less masculine. But given the climate of homophobia in our community, he may not give that hug because he may be perceived as “gay.” That is a big difference. This is what we are trying to fight on this website, the universal notion that “gay” equals feminine. Being “gay” does NOT relate to being masculine/feminine…They are separate. Effeminate men can be heterosexual as well.




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