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Reaching Ninety
Reaching Ninety ›
By Martin Duberman


Published Mar 2023

Martin Duberman, one of the LGBTQ+ community’s maverick thinkers and historians, looks back on ninety years of life, his history in the movement, and what he’s learned.

In the early Sixties, Martin Duberman published a path-breaking article defending the Abolitionists against the then-standard view of them as “misguided fanatics.” In 1964, his documentary play, In White America, which reread the history of racist oppression in this country, toured the country—most notably during Freedom Summer—and became an international hit.

Duberman then took on the profession of history for failing to admit the inherent subjectivity of all re-creations of the past. He radically democratized his own seminars at Princeton, for which he was excoriated by powerful professors in his own department, leading him to renounce his tenured full professorship and to join the faculty of the CUNY Graduate School.

At CUNY, too, he was initially blocked from offering a pioneering set of seminars on the history of gender and sexuality, but after a fifteen-year struggle succeeded in establishing the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies—which became a beacon for emerging scholars in that new field.

By the early Seventies, Duberman had broadened his struggle against injustice by becoming active in protesting the war in Vietnam and in playing a central role in forming the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and Queers for Economic Justice.

Down to the present-day, he continues through his writing to champion those working for a more equitable society.

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