Abstract

This article analyzes the manner in which the Veterans’ Affairs Bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) facilitated the discharge challenges of Black military veterans removed for same-sex intimacies, from 1944 to 1950. It argues that the Veterans’ Affairs Bureau’s general campaign to combat racism within the military and related bureaucracies created opportunities for Black veterans discharged for same-sex intimacies to challenge homophobia within these same entities. This particular moment of advocacy suggests that, far from exhibiting unyielding homophobia, the NAACP during the immediate postwar period engaged with Black queer individuals/communities in ways that were determined, in large measure, by the pursuit of racial equality and advancement. Relying primarily on the extant records of the NAACP, this essay makes three contributions to the existing historical studies about mid-twentieth-century Black freedom struggles. First, this article broadens the sexual politics associated with midcentury civil rights mobilizations to include emerging narratives of same-sex intimacies alongside long-standing assumptions of Black hyper(hetero)sexuality. Second, this essay demonstrates that the NAACP’s response to the removal of Black veterans using “blue discharges” was informed by a desire to facilitate equitable access to benefits associated with the GI Bill, as well as the disproportionate prosecution of Black men for sex-related statutes against rape and miscegenation. Third, this article contributes to the growing historical scholarship on the experiences of and communal attitudes toward Black queer communities.

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