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Doctor of Humane Letters
Historian, playwright and gay-rights activist Martin Duberman is a professor emeritus of history at Herbert Lehman College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), where he founded the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS).
Duberman grew up near New York City and went on to earn a B.A. from Yale in 1952 and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1957. He taught American history at Yale until 1962. He then spent nine years on the faculty of Princeton, during which time he got involved in the budding counterculture move ment and became an advocate and activist for leftwing causes. He was among those who signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge in 1968, refusing to pay taxes in protest against the Vietnam War. Mean while, Duberman went through years of therapy in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality. But with the rise of the gay liberation movement, he decided to embrace a gay identity and incorporate queer issues into his work.
In 1971, Duberman accepted an appointment as Distinguished Professor of History at CUNY’s Lehman College.Twenty years later, he founded and became executive director of CLAGS at CUNY’s Graduate Center. CLAGS was “the first universitybased research center in the United States dedicat ed to the study of historical, cultural, and political issues of vital concern to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and communities.” Today, CLAGS offers an endowed fellowship named for Duberman.
He is the author or editor of 20 books, including the biography Charles Francis Adams, 1807–1886 (1961), which won a Bancroft Prize; the play In White America (1963), which won a Drama Desk Award; and the anthology Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (1989), which won two Lambda Awards. Many of his essays and book reviews are collected in The Uncompleted Past (1969), and his most recent book is Waiting to Land: A (Mostly) Political Memoir (2009). Duberman has been a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and has won an Award for Scholarly Distinction from the American Historical Association. His contributions to literature have garnered him a special award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters.