Amateur Historian Creates Photo Archive About Male Relationships

The New York Times published an archive of images about romantic relationships between African American men

The New York Times published a series of photos featuring black gay couples from the Civil War to the present. The images were taken from a Flickr stream titled Hidden in the Open: Photographic Essay of Afro American Male Affections, which has 200 photographs collected by amateur historian and playwright Trent Kelley. He made his archive from vintage group portraits of African Americans dated mainly from the end of 19th century and beginning of the 20th century that he purchased on Ebay, at flea markets and at estate sales.

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Kelley explained that African American communities often turn away from homosexuality, and are unwilling to accept it. By creating this archive he is fighting against racial discrimination and hopes to help African American men accept their feelings.

Mr. Kelley acknowledges that the images may cause ambiguous reaction. “Not every gesture articulated between men was an indication of male-to-male intimacies. Assuredly, what all photographs in this essay have in common are signs of Afro American male friendship, affection, and love that were recorded for posterity without fear and shame,” Kelley writes. “Friendships where men often wrote romantically to one another, walked arm in arm were not uncommon to the straight and gay man 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”.

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