Friday, January 4, 2019: 1:50 PM
Williford C (Hilton Chicago)
This paper uncovers the largely untold history of how African American, Native American, and gay and lesbian communities in the United States Heartland collaborated in their response to the early AIDS epidemic. Without the large populations, pre-existing organizations, and political acumen of the coastal cities, those groups most impacted by the epidemic banded together to provide a patchwork of services and political tactics tailored for the needs of Kansas and Missourians. Navigating a landscape even more politically and religiously conservative than the nation at large, these groups also employed respectability politics designed to make the fight against AIDS as palatable as possible not only within their own groups but also to woo the support of local churches, politicians, and healthcare providers. The dynamics of the early AIDS response in the Heartland thus stands in sharp contrast to the more documented AIDS histories focused on coastal cities and almost exclusively gay responses. Spurred by necessity, the collaborations between Native American reservations, African American churches, and nascent gay groups offer numerous valuable historical points of inquiry as well as meaningful lessons for the present and future responses to epidemics.