Steve Ralls

Remembering Allan Berube

Filed By Steve Ralls | December 13, 2007 1:40 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Allan Berube, Don't Ask Don't Tell, obituary

Windy City Times is reporting that gay historian Allan Berube, author of Coming Out Under Fire, has died. He was 61.

Berube's history of lesbian and gay troops during World War II is considered one of the definitive works on gays in the military, and was made into a documentary film as well.

From the Times:

Berube was, for decades, an independent historian and community activist. He first came to progressive political activism in opposition to the Vietnam war, working with the American Friends Service Committee in Boston in the late 1960s, after dropping out of the University of Chicago. After coming out in 1969, he joined a "gay liberation collective household," and later moved to San Francisco to join a gay commune for craftspeople. He remained in San Francisco for many years, and was one of the founders of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project in 1978. His slide shows about women who dressed and passed as men -- and married other women -- were welcomed by enthusiastic audiences around the country.

Berube is best remembered for his groundbreaking work of gay history, published in 1990: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II. The Lambda Literary Award-winning book, which was later adapted by Arthur Dong into a Peabody Award-winning documentary, was often cited in Senate hearings on the military's anti-gay policies in 1993.

Martin Duberman, distinguished professor of history emeritus at the City University of New York, called Berube's book "superb ... not only in terms of his prose style, which was absolutely lucid and even elegant, but also in terms of the very fine-spun analysis. Allan was not one to create shallow generalizations about either a given individual or a series of events. He was utterly meticulous and utterly careful. No one will ever, I think, have to redo the book on World War II, and you can almost never say that about a historian or a given piece of historical research."

In 1996, Berube received a "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for his work.

For the past several years, Berube lived in Liberty, N.Y., in the Catskills. There, he owned a bed & breakfast, and operated Intelligent Design, a store selling mid-century modern collectibles. Berube's partner, John Nelson, said, "Allan just loved it when people walked into the Liberty store, looked around, and were happy."

In addition to Nelson, Berube is also survived by his mother and three sisters.

He will be greatly missed, but his contribution to our movement and community will always persevere.

Originally posted at Frontlines

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