The African-American gay male literary tradition consists of a substantial body of texts and includes some of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century.
Most African-American lesbian literature is as concerned with racism as it is with sexuality, causing many writers to construct Afrocentric sexual identities that affirm the power of black women.
Most gay, lesbian, and bisexual American writers who adhered to Marxist-oriented parties and social movements between 1917 and the 1960s strove to hide their sexual orientation, and some even depicted homosexuals negatively in their fiction and drama.
Countee Cullen, an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, has coded references to homosexuality in much of his poetry.
A noted African-American writer from the 1900s through the 1920s, Angelina Weld Grimké fell into obscurity in the 1930s and was only rediscovered in the 1980s; her inability to act on her sexual desires inspired her writing and contributed to her ultimately abandoning it.
The Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s, included several important gay and lesbian writers.
Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.
Constrained by the social conventions of the time, the bisexual African-American novelist Nella Larsen was covert in her treatment of lesbianism.
As midwife to the Harlem Renaissance, Alain Locke played a crucial role in the development of African-American literature; his homosexuality informed his plea for respect of sexual and cultural diversity.
Jamaican-born bisexual African-American poet, novelist, and essayist Claude McKay made compelling contributions to the development of the Harlem Renaissance; in his works, he put forward a revolutionary agenda of racial, class, and sexual liberation.
The gay novelist, critic, and photographer Carl Van Vechten was especially interested in African-American culture and was an influential patron to many writers of the Harlem Renaissance.