Charles Sumner and Romantic Friendships

People who we consider LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) today have always existed. In the 19th century, same-gender affection often took the form of romantic friendships. These ambiguous relationships allowed platonic friends to form deep physical and emotional bonds with one another, while also allowing lovers a degree of openness during a time in which homosexuality was criminalized. These videos, a joint effort between Boston African American National Historic Site and Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, explore Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner’s romantic friendships with two of the most important men in his life: Samuel Gridley Howe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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22 minutes, 26 seconds

Learn about Charles Sumner and his romantic friendships with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Samuel Gridley Howe.

Last updated: October 21, 2020