LGBTQ History

LGBT History Month profile: Historian and playwright Martin Duberman

Martin Duberman, Historian
b. August 6, 1930

“I’m overwhelmed at the great distance that we have all traveled.”

Martin Duberman is a historian, a playwright, an LGBT activist and the founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School. He is an acclaimed author of more than 20 books.

Duberman_ADuberman was born in New York City. He graduated with honors from Yale and received his Ph.D. in American history from Harvard.

In 1961, Duberman won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American history, and was subsequently named a full professor at Princeton. In 1971, he left Princeton and joined the faculty at CUNY as a Distinguished Professor of History.

Duberman recounts questioning his sexuality in his 30s. He sought therapy to be “cured.” When he accepted his sexual orientation, Duberman began exploring gay activism. He challenged homophobia in academia and society. When he came out in the early ’70s, he was one of the few openly gay academics.

A renowned essayist and playwright, Duberman is known for literature on African-American history and abolitionism, and for his biography of Paul Robeson. Critics have described his work as “refreshing and inspiring” (The New York Times) and “magnificent” (USA Today). He co-edited and contributed to the anthology “Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past,” a standard reference in the field of LGBT studies. Duberman’s biography “James Russell Lowell” was a finalist for the 1966 National Book Award.

Duberman wrote plays that deal with gender issues and the construction of male identity. In 1963, his play “In White America” won the Vernon Rice/Drama Desk Award for Best Off-Broadway Production.

In 1991, Duberman founded CUNY’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) to further LGBT scholarship and curriculum. CLAGS, one of the first organizations of its kind, hosts conferences and awards research grants.

His most recent publication, “The Martin Duberman Reader,” was published in May 2013.

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