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.