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In T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s, filmmaker Robert Philipson examines the sexual proclivities of blues singers during the Harlem Renaissance, who expressed their true tendencies in speakeasies and dive bars, and hinted at their homosexuality through lyrics. Talk to the gals just like any old man' Secret: Women like Waters (pictured circa 1929) expressed their sexuality 'under the cover of night,' explains Mr Philipson, adding: 'Aspiring post-Victorian middle-class blacks were very hostile to homosexuality' However, he notes that while these women were in the minority, the mere fact these references existed at all was 'remarkable, given the times,' he says.
Revealed: In T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s, filmmaker Robert Philipson examines the sexual proclivities of blues singers like Gladys Bentley (pictured) during the Harlem Renaissance Hide away: Actress and singer Ethel Waters (pictured circa 1930s) kept her lesbian relationship with dancer Ethel Williams private, even making sure 20th century biographies didn't mention that they lived together Clues: Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey (right), who came to be known as the Mother of the Blues, hinted at her sexuality in her lyrics: 'It's true I wear a collar and a tie. 'You certainly never saw it in any other part of American culture.'Indeed, common Christian belief at that time upheld the notion that homosexuality was wrong, and many black Americans were striving to be 'respectable' citizens during 'one of the worst periods of racial segregation in American history,' notes Mr Philipson.
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