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Following the assertion that the 1960s urban riots are essential to the historical context of black political subjectivity, Kwame Holmes proposes that they must also yield lessons for our understanding of the gender and sexual politics of black social movements. Holmes reconfigures the integration of queer studies within the production of black urban, social, and political history. Basing his analysis on the 1968 riots in the historically black Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C., he engages the Metropolitan Police Department’s sexual regulation of black commercial areas, the sexual anxieties spawned by overcrowding in slum housing, and the symbolic work queer black residents performed to mark the neighborhood as in decline. He urges historians of black political and sexual subjectivity to embrace the seeming contradictions inherent within black sexual subjectivity as the starting point for new histories of blackness as manifested within “black politics,” “black activism,” and “black radicalism.”

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