Through it all I discerned one clear and certain truth: in the core of the heart
of the American race problem the sex factor is rooted; rooted so deeply that
it is not always recognized when it shows at the surface. Other factors are
obvious and are the ones we dare to deal with; but, regardless of how we
deal with these, the race situation will continue to be acute as long as the
sex factor persists.
-James Weldon Johnson,
Along This
This book has attempted to demonstrate a range of approaches for
understanding the ways in which representations of supposed differ-
ences between "black" and "white" and "heterosexual" and "homo-
sexual" bodies summoned and shaped one another in late-nineteenth-
and early-twentieth-century American culture. These representations
often performed contradictory ideological work depending on the spe-
cific context of their production and reception and thus require a di-
verse range of interpretive strategies.
Although my argument and methodology are grounded in a particu-
lar historical moment, that of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, they do have implications for questioning the imbrication
of racial and sexual discourses in other historical contexts. Given that
my work is a product of our own historical moment, we might con-
sider how current discourses of race and sexuality are shaped by residual
effects of the earlier period and how they provide a context for making
visible the very interconnections that I have explored. In the last decade
alone, for example, recent scientific research into sexual orientation has
demonstrated a reenergized determination to discover a biological key
to the origins of homosexuality. Highly publicized new studies have
attempted to locate indicators of sexual orientation in discrete niches
of the human body, ranging from a particular gene on the X chromo-
some, to the hypothalamus, to the ridges of fingertips.l In an updated
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