Allan Bérubé

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Allan Bérubé
Allan Bérubé in Madison, Wisconsin (3).jpg
Allan Bérubé in 1990
Allan Ronald Bérubé

December 3, 1946
Springfield, Massachusetts
DiedDecember 11, 2007(2007-12-11) (aged 61)
Liberty, New York
OccupationHistorian, activist, author
Notable work
Coming Out Under Fire
Partner(s)John Nelson
AwardsLambda Literary Award, MacArthur Fellowship

Allan Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007) was an American historian, activist, independent scholar, self-described "community-based" researcher and college drop-out, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about homosexual members of the American Armed Forces during World War II.[1] He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working-class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.

Among Bérubé's published works was the 1990 book Coming Out Under Fire, which examined the stories of gay men and women in the U.S. military between 1941 and 1945. The book used interviews with gay veterans, government documents, and other sources to discuss the social and political issues that faced over 9,000 servicemen and women during World War II. The book earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men's Nonfiction book of 1990[2] and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film's director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the "genius grant") from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death.

Bérubé was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and lived with his family in Monson, Massachusetts, and later in a trailer park near the waterfront in Bayonne, New Jersey. He lived for a time in Boston and for many years in San Francisco. He moved to New York City, and finally settled in Liberty, New York, where he died in 2007.

Starting in 1979, Bérubé was interviewed about his work in publications including Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Advocate, Christopher Street, Gay Community News, and the San Francisco Examiner. His many radio and television appearances included interviews by Studs Terkel, Sonia Freedman on CNN, and two by Terry Gross on National Public Radio's Fresh Air.

Bérubé was elected trustee of the Village of Liberty, Liberty, New York, in 2003 and 2005. He also played a major role in saving the historic Munson Diner, which was moved to Liberty from Manhattan in 2005.

Personal and professional papers[edit]

The records of Bérubé's life and work are preserved by the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, of which he was a founding member. Bérubé donated the research and administrative files of his World War II Project to the society in 1995, with an accretion in 2000 (collection no. 1995-16). That collection is processed and open to researchers; a finding aid is available on the Web at the Online Archive of California.

Bérubé also donated the records of the Forget-Me-Nots (collection no. 1989-10), an affinity group of which he was a member; the group performed civil disobedience at the United States Supreme Court during the 1987 Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, with each participant protesting in honor of an individual who had died of AIDS.

Following Bérubé's death, the executors of his estate donated his complete personal and professional papers to the GLBT Historical Society. The society has processed the papers, opened them to researchers and posted an online finding aid; the collection includes more than 75 linear feet (150-plus boxes) of records.[3] A number of other collections of personal papers and organizational records at the GLBT Historical Society also include correspondence from Bérubé and other material documenting his work; details are available by searching the society's online catalog of manuscript collections.

Selected works[edit]


  • Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, a social history based on oral history interviews, declassified government documents, letters and diaries. NY: Free Press, April 1990; paperback reprint: Plume/New American Library, April 1991.
  • My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2011.


  • "Behind the Spectre of San Francisco". The Body Politic, April 1981.
  • "Caught in the Storm: AIDS and the Meaning of Natural Disaster". Outlook, 1, no. 3 (Fall 1988), pp. 8–19.
  • "Coming Out Under Fire". Mother Jones, February/March 1983.
  • "Don't Save Us From Our Sexuality". Coming Up!. April 1984.
  • "The First Stonewall". San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Program, June 1983.
  • "The History of Gay Bathhouses". First published in Coming Up! (San Francisco). Revised and reprinted in Policing Public Sex: Queer Politics And the Future of AIDS Activism. Edited by Dangerous Bedfellows (Ephen Glenn Colter, Wayne Hoffman, Eva Pendleton, Allison Redick, David Serlin). Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1996. Revised and reprinted based on first version in: Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy, ed. by William J. Woods and Diane Binson. NY: Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, 2003. Co-published as the Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 44 No. 3/4, 2003.
  • "How Gay Stays White and What Kind of White It Stays". In The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness, ed. by Birgit Rasmussen, Eric Klineberg, Irene Nexica, and Matt Wray. Duke University Press, 2001. Reprinted in Privilege: A Reader, ed. by Michael S. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, a member of the Perseus Book group,2003.
  • "Intellectual Desire". GLQ 3, no. 1 (1996): 139-157. (Includes a revised version of the autobiographical keynote address on his Franco-American, working-class origins that Bérubé presented at the First Quebec Lesbian and Gay Studies Conference, Montreal, November, 1992.( Reprinted in: Susan Raffo, ed., Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write About Class, Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1997.
  • Introduction to German silent film, Anders Als Die Anderen, premier San Francisco showing, Seventh San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, June 20, 1983.
  • "Lesbian Masquerade". Gay Community News, November 17, 1979.
  • "Lesbians at War with the Military: Tragedies, facts, and secret documents". Edited by Berube and Rebecca Isaacs. Out/Look (San Francisco), Issue 13, Summer 1991, pp. 14–27.
  • "Marching to a Different Drummer". The Advocate, Issue 320, October 1981.
  • "Marching to a Different Drummer: Lesbian and Gay GIs in World War II". in Duberman, and others, eds. Hidden from History, 383-394.
  • "Medical Scapegoating: An Historical Perspective". Gay Community News, April 21, 1984.
  • "Murder in the Women's Army Corps: An Interview with Actress Pat Bond". Out/Look (San Francisco), Issue 13, Summer 1991. p. 17-20.
  • "Rediscovering Our Forgotten Past" (interview with Woodie Wilson and Norman Sansom about the publication Myrtle Beach Bitch). The Front Page, Vol. V, No. 11, June 26, 1984.
  • "Sunset Trailer Park". (with Florence Bérubé; dated November 1995) In: White Trash: Race and Class in America edited by Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz. NY<?>: Routledge, 1997, pp. 15–39.
  • "The War Years Were Critical". Washington Blade Pride Guide, June 1983.
  • "To Acknowledge Every Person As A Person". One-page anti-war essay in: Living at War: A Collection of Contemporary Responses to the Draft. Edited by Berube and David Worstell. Chicago: no publisher, no date (before November 1968).

Film, TV[edit]

  • Consultant. The Times of Harvey Milk; documentary film directed by Robert Epstein, 1984; photography by Frances Reid; edited by Deborah Hoffman and Epstein; music by Mark Isham; produced by Richard Schmiechen; released by Teleculture Films Inc. Running time: 87 minutes. Not rated.
  • Interviewee. "Over Our Dead Bodies". documentary film directed by Stuart Marshall, with Bérubé, Gregg Bordowitz, Michael Callen, Douglas Crimp.
  • Screenplay, with Arthur Dong, for documentary film Coming Out Under Fire, made for television, produced and directed by Arthur Dong, and funded with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (1994), based on the book by Bérubé. Director of photography, Stephen Lighthill; edited by Veronica Selver; music by Mark Adler; released by Zeitgeist Films. Running time: 71 minutes. Not rated. Broadcast nationally, PBS, June 1995; released on home video, 1996; released on DVD. 2003.
  • Story consultant. The Castro; documentary film produced by KQED TV, San Francisco, 1997.
  • Story consultant. Licensed to Kill; documentary film by Arthur Dong, 1996.
  • Story consultant and advisor. Out At Work; documentary film by Tami Gold, 1996.
  • Story consultant and historical consultant. The Question of Equality; documentary television series funded by Independent Television Service, 1994.


  • Creator of "No Red-Baiting! No Race-Baiting! No Queen-Baiting!", a 90-minute illustrated talk on the left-wing, multi-racial, and gay-friendly Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, posthumously digitized and shared on
  • Co-curator, with Jonathan Ned Katz, of the U.S. section of "Goodbye to Berlin? Hundert Jahre Schwulenbewegung", an exhibition on the international history of the gay rights movement held at the Berlin Academy of the Arts, produced by the Schwules Museum of Berlin and the Academy, May 14-August 3, 1997.


As author, historian, lecturer, teacher[edit]

  • "Allan Berube Day," proclaimed by San Francisco Board of Supervisors, June 17, 1996.
  • Certificate of Appreciation, National Park Service, Western Region, 1992.
  • Certificate of Honor, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, "in appreciative public recognition of distinction and merit," 1984.
    • Certificate reads: "We congratulate you for your extensive historical research and study of the gay community, held in high esteem and greatly valued throughout the country. This outstanding contribution to our society, focusing attention on the gay community during and after World War II, is a significant piece of history and we are grateful for your dedication to this effort."
  • Community Service Award, Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights, 1990.
  • Distinguished Achievement Award, Monette-Horwitz Trust Award, 2001.
  • Lambda Book Award for Best Gay Male Nonfiction Book of 1990, 1991.
  • Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States: for the best scholarship on the subject of intolerance in the United States, 1991.
  • MacArthur Fellowship, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, "in recognition of your accomplishments in history which demonstrate your originality, creativity, capacity for self-direction, and ability to make a contribution to our lives," 1996-2001.
  • Rockefeller Residency Fellowship in the Humanities, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS), Graduate Center, City University of New York, for research on "The Marine Cooks and Stewards Union 1930s to 1950s," 1994-1995.

For film Coming Out Under Fire[edit]

(Berube was co-screenwriter of documentary based on his book of the same title)

  • Berlin International Film Festival, Best Gay Documentary, 1994.
  • George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Television Broadcasting, 1995.
  • GLAAD Media Award Best Documentary.
  • Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award for Excellence, 1994.

Liberty and Sullivan County, New York[edit]

  • Beautification Award, Greater Liberty Chamber of Commerce, 2004.
  • Pride of Sullivan Award, Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for Carrier House Bed & Breakfast, May 1, 2005.

Public service[edit]

Liberty and Sullivan County, New York[edit]

  • Created, designed, and maintained website:, "A Community Website to Promote Clean-Up & Beautification Projects."
  • Created, designed, and maintained website:
  • Helped to save the Town and Country Building, Liberty, NY; prepared sales booklet for building; initiated facade restoration by volunteers from Cornell University's Historic Preservation Planning Program, April 15–18, 2004.
  • Initiated the listing of 127 buildings located in the Downtown Civic and Commercial Historic District of Liberty, NY, on both the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places, 2006.
  • Initiated the saving, redevelopment, and moving of the Munson Diner from New York City to Liberty, NY.
  • Member, ALIVE (Assembly for Liberty's Investment in Visual Enhancement).
  • Member, Cornell-Liberty Economic Action Project Steering Committee.
  • Member, Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board.
  • Member, J.C. Young Hose Company No. 1, Liberty Volunteer Fire Department; served as Fire Police Officer.
  • Member, Revitalization Committee.
  • Member, Sullivan County United Against Prejudice.
  • Member (with Dara Smith), Sign Review Committee.
  • Represented the Village of Liberty at meetings of the Community Development Corporation.
  • Researched and produced an illustrated history: "A Century of Theaters on Liberty's Main Street," and other local history research.
  • Rewrote and reorganized "A User's Guide To Recycling & Trash Removal in the Village of Liberty."

San Francisco[edit]

  • Appointed by the Chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Committee (now the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee), serving three years, 1983-1986.
  • Founding Member, The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society (GLBT Historical Society), San Francisco, 1985.
  • Founding Member, San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project, 1978.


  • Member, National Writers Union.
  • Wrote detailed history of the U.S. ban on homosexuals in the military for Senator Edward Kennedy, who included it in the record of the 1993 hearings on homosexuals in the military. "Additional Views of Mr. Kennedy. Excerpted from the Senate Debate regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994. 139 Congressional Record, S11194; daily ed. September 9, 1993." available online

Employment and entrepreneurial activities[edit]

  • Bought "Carrier Grove," wooded property on Carrier Street, Liberty, NY, with aim of furthering green development.
  • Coordinator of Community & Economic Development and founding member of Liberty Economic Action Project (LEAP), 2004-05.
  • Manager & Program Director, Liberty Theatre, 2002-2003.
  • Bought, renovated, operated Carrier House Bed and Breakfast, 64 Carrier Street, Liberty, NY, 2002-2007.
  • With life partner John Nelson, operated Intelligent Design Antiques (1930s-40s-50s collectibles), Liberty, NY.
  • With Maurice Gerry, bought the Shelburne Playhouse/Theatre, Ferndale, NY; coordinated its restoration; initiated its being placed on the register of New York State and National Historic Places; initiated facade restoration by group of Cornell University historic preservation volunteers, 2003-2007.


  • Oral History: Conducted 70 oral history interviews since 1980 with lesbians and gay men about their experiences in the military and on the home front during World War II and about their experiences as members of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.
  • Government Documents: Through the use of the Freedom of Information Act and the National Archives, uncovered thousands of pages of Army, Navy and FBI documents relating to the management of homosexual military personnel during World War II.


  • New School for Social Research, Fall 1996
  • Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, Summer Session 1994
  • University of California at Santa Cruz, Winter 1991 and Spring 1992
  • Stanford University, Fall 1991


  • Consultant on many museum exhibits, radio and television shows, books, magazine and newspaper articles and plays.
  • Conducted many workshops at universities and community groups on conducting community-based historical research, including oral history interviews and archival research.
  • Freelance historical consultant (1985–2007).
  • Freelance developmental editor (1991–2007).
  • Community-based gay history researcher and writer: Full-time (1982–2001); Part-time (1978–1982).
  • Free-lance direct mail copywriter for nonprofit organizations.


  • Courses in "Multi-Image Production," City College of San Francisco, 1991–92
  • Harvard Summer School, 1968
  • Undergraduate education, University of Chicago (English Literature major), 1964–68
  • High School diploma, Mount Hermon School for Boys (now the Northfield Schools), Mount Hermon, Massachusetts, 1964



S., K. "Outing History: Allan Berube, X'68, wrote Coming Out Under Fire to tell the history of gay men and lesbian women in World War II." University of Chicago Magazine, February 1997. available online

United States Senate.[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

Archival resources[edit]


This biography and list of accomplishments is being compiled from documents and notes in Bérubé's files and from research in other cited sources.

  1. ^ Woo, Elaine (December 17, 2007). "Allan Bérubé; gay historian chronicled roles in WWII". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 21, 2007.
  2. ^ "Lambda Literary Foundation, Award recipients 1988-1991". Archived from the original on January 11, 2007.
  3. ^ "Out of the Boxes: Historical Society Opens Archives of Pioneering Historian Allan Bérubé". History Happens. March 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2013.