Research

My book manuscript in progress, To Make the Wounded Whole: The Political Culture of African American AIDS Activism traces the evolution of black politics in post-Civil Rights America through African Americans’ fight against AIDS. Scholarship to date has not focused on ways that African Americans fought to mobilize black communities against the disease. Without an understanding of African American AIDS activism, however, black communities appear as passive, powerless victims of the epidemic, or as prejudiced people who failed to take “ownership” of a disease associated with gay men and drug users. Examining the period from 1985 to 2003, I argue that African American AIDS activists borrowed tactics from earlier black freedom struggles to highlight the inequities underlying the epidemic in black America. These activists also reshaped the boundaries of African American identity as they located queer sexuality in prevailing notions of blackness and addressed AIDS in their communities as part of the epidemic in the larger African diaspora. The project establishes a genealogy of American AIDS activism rooted in black politics, in contrast to other histories, which focus on white gay and lesbian organizing. Altogether, these stories demonstrate that AIDS occasioned not the “breakdown” of black politics, but their reimagining.

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