UBUNTU CENTER OF CHICAGO
Center for SGL-LGBT  of African Descent Community

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CHICAGO BLACK GAY HISTORY

With the arrival of southern black migrants during the Great Migration, a lesbian and gay enclave also developed on the city's South Side. African American lesbians and gay men became regular fixtures, as both patrons and entertainers, in Prohibition-era cabarets, including the Plantation Cafe on East 35th Street and the Pleasure Inn on East 31st. In 1935 a black gay street hustler and nightclub doorman, Alfred Finnie, launched a series of drag (transvestite) balls on the South Side. Building on the success of the interracial drag balls that had been held at the Coliseum Annex on the Near South Side since the 1920s, the Finnie's Ball became a celebrated Halloween event on the South Side, drawing thousands of gay and lesbian participants and heterosexual onlookers well into the 1960s.

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the first bars catering exclusively to lesbians and gay men opened in Chicago. Among the best known were Waldman's, a gay male bar run by a married Jewish couple on Michigan Avenue near Randolph Street, and the Rose-El-Inn, a lesbian bar on Clark Street near Division. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Loop became an increasingly important meeting place for gay men; the theaters,restaurants, and bars of this district supplemented the Near North Side venues as gathering spots for both gay men and the soldiers and sailors who swarmed the city during World War II. Lesbian bars on both the Near North and Near South Sides, especially those run by the lesbian entrepreneur Billie Le Roy, drew sizable crowds, as did the South Side's Cabin Inn, which featured a chorus line of cross-dressed black men. The residential and social concentration of gay men in the Rush Street area drew the attention of Alfred C. Kinsey in 1939 and provided a significant sample pool for his landmark 1948 study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

With the arrival of southern black migrants during the Great Migration, a lesbian and gay enclave also developed on the city's South Side. African American lesbians and gay men became regular fixtures, as both patrons and entertainers, in Prohibition-era cabarets, including the Plantation Cafe on East 35th Street and the Pleasure Inn on East 31st. In 1935 a black gay street hustler and nightclub doorman, Alfred Finnie, launched a series of drag (transvestite) balls on the South Side. Building on the success of the interracial drag balls that had been held at the Coliseum Annex on the Near South Side since the 1920s, the Finnie's Ball became a celebrated Halloween event on the South Side, drawing thousands of gay and lesbian participants and heterosexual onlookers well into the 1960s.

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the first bars catering exclusively to lesbians and gay men opened in Chicago. Among the best known were Waldman's, a gay male bar run by a married Jewish couple on Michigan Avenue near Randolph Street, and the Rose-El-Inn, a lesbian bar on Clark Street near Division. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Loop became an increasingly important meeting place for gay men; the theaters,restaurants, and bars of this district supplemented the Near North Side venues as gathering spots for both gay men and the soldiers and sailors who swarmed the city during World War II. Lesbian bars on both the Near North and Near South Sides, especially those run by the lesbian entrepreneur Billie Le Roy, drew sizable crowds, as did the South Side's Cabin Inn, which featured a chorus line of cross-dressed black men. The residential and social concentration of gay men in the Rush Street area drew the attention of Alfred C. Kinsey in 1939 and provided a significant sample pool for his landmark 1948 study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.