Respectability on Trial: Sex Crimes in New York City, 1900-1918
by Brian Donovan
SUNY Press (September, 2016)
By Hugh Ryan
As a queer historian, a frustrating amount of my research comes from records of arrests. Sodomy, prostitution, disorderly conduct, masquerading, vagrancy, the crime against nature, solicitation – the list of laws that have been used in New York City to criminalize queer lives is long, varied, and stretches all the way back to 1634, when a Dutch colonial anti-sodomy law was used to prosecute a settler named Harmen van den Bogaert and an enslaved African man called Tobias.
I say frustrating because these arrests rarely say much to the historian interested in queer life: a name, a date, a charge; perhaps if you’re lucky you can find a newspaper squib that gives a line or two of context. Often, they are indicia in the truest sense, pointing towards something but not revealing much of anything (other than the existence of the state apparatus of criminalization). But in times where there was little public discussion of queer lives, records of arrests are some of the few regularly discoverable signposts pointing to where queerness may have existed.
“[T]hey’re knocking down negroes ‘round here”: Public Racial Violence and Black Self-Defense in Early 20th Century NYC
By Patricia M. Salmon
During the past several years I have researched and documented more than two dozen murders involving Staten Island and/or Staten Islanders. Many have been quite unique. The following is a killing that occurred in Manhattan with the killer attempting to utilize a series of Staten Island transports in an effort to permanently discard of the body. While his explanations for committing the crime and his actions were certainly exceptional, it is here once again proven that unreciprocated love will lead many individuals to behavior that is neither rational nor amusing.
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