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Black History: Vintage Photos Show Black LGBT Couples Through Time

For the last day of Black History Month we want to pay tribute to those who never got to see marriage equality, never saw the day where black men, women, and trans could live in their truth as open as we do today.

Hidden in the Open is photo essay and collection of African-American same sex couples throughout history going as far back as the 19th century. Trent Kelley, the collector and historian, notes that “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 these individuals was an indication of same sex intimacies. Assuredly, what all the photographs have in common are signs of Afro American same gender affection and love that were recorded for posterity without fear and shame.”

“I want the world to see the photographs. I want the black gay community to see the photographs and men in particular so they know they have a history to be proud of,” says Kelley.

Many of the photos are in black and white. As you contextualize each photo with the time and era that they were taken, you see that these people faced possible racial violence. The affection in many of the photos are subtle and even in some cases, hard to see. But Kelley notes that on the back of one photo was written “my special friend.” 

No matter the controversy over whether or not the people in the photos are in fact lgbt, there have been openly LGBT African-American citizens that have contributed to and helped shape the history of black America.

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