This report from the field examines the interpretation of two notable queer women from Columbus, Georgia: blues musician Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (1886–1939) and Southern Gothic author Carson McCullers (1917–1967). Although these women maintained complicated relationships with their hometown, the Columbus Museum is utilizing new ways to examine their sexuality in the context of their cultural contributions. Nuanced interpretation of Rainey’s and McCullers’s bisexuality offers opportunities to discuss connections between sexuality, gender, race, and economic realities. In presenting the museum’s efforts to interpret these fascinating personalities through exhibitions and permanent collection artifacts, this article offers ideas, strategies, and questions for public historians to consider in their own practice.
Woman, Southern, Bisexual: Interpreting Ma Rainey and Carson McCullers in Columbus, Georgia
Rebecca Bush is curator of history and exhibitions manager at the Columbus Museum in Georgia. Her professional interests include community history in all its variations, multiple-perspective interpretation, interdisciplinary museum exhibitions, and social history of the American South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She is a co-editor and contributing author to Art and Public History: Approaches, Opportunities, and Challenges and serves on the board of the Georgia Association of Museums.
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Rebecca Bush; Woman, Southern, Bisexual: Interpreting Ma Rainey and Carson McCullers in Columbus, Georgia. The Public Historian 1 May 2019; 41 (2): 94–115. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2019.41.2.94
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