Estes, Steve 1972-

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Estes, Steve 1972-


Born 1972, in Charlotte, NC; married; wife's name Carol (a librarian); children: Zinnia. Education: Rice University, B.A., 1994; University of Georgia, M.A., 1996; University of North Carolina, Ph.D., 2001. Hobbies and other interests: Music and surfing.


Office—History Department, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928. E-mail—[email protected].


Historian, educator, and writer. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, project coordinator, Southern Oral History Program, 1996-99; Sunflower County Freedom Project, Sunflower, MS, research coordinator and teacher, 1999-2000; American Youth Policy Forum, Washington, DC, research associate, 1999-2001; College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, visiting assistant professor, 2001-02; Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, associate professor, 2002—.


Sunflower County Freedom Project Teaching Award, 2000; Order of Omega Exceptional Teaching Award, Sonoma State University Greek Honor Society, 2002, 2004; National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2003; Norris & Carol Hundley Book Award, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, 2006, for the most distinguished book by a historian from the western U.S. and Canada. Also recipient of numerous grants, including a grant from the California Council for the Humanities in 2007.


(Editor, with Sonia Jurich) Raising Academic Achievement, American Youth Policy Forum (Washington, DC), 2000.

(Editor, with Sonia Jurich and Donna Walker) Raising Minority Academic Achievement, American Youth Policy Forum (Washington, DC), 2001.

I Am a Man! Race, Manhood, and the Civil Rights Movement, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2005.

Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007.

Contributor to books, including The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, edited by Renee Romano and Leigh Reiford, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2006. Contributor to periodicals, including Avery Review, Labor History, and Oral History Review.


Steve Estes is a historian whose primary interests are labor organizing, education, the American South, race relations, and sexuality. The author has written extensively about civil rights within the context of his research interests.

I Am a Man! Race, Manhood, and the Civil Rights Movement stems from the author's dissertation and examines masculinity within the American Civil Rights Movement. Maintaining that issues of gender lay deeply embedded within the struggle for civil rights, the author looks at the group's leaders and at events in the movement as he discusses how activists used race and manhood to articulate their vision of what American society should become. "To be sure, previous writers have alluded to various ‘macho’ aspects of the Civil Rights Movement in their accounts," noted Larry Isaac in Southern Cultures. "But prior authors have failed to systematically identify specific forms of masculinist rhetoric and tactics that were deployed at different moments in and against the movement." Isaac went on to note in the same review that a "sign of a book's value" is "its ability to make the reader appreciate the significance of something that had previously been a virtual blind spot."

The author's analysis of masculinity and the movement for civil rights looks at crucial turning points in the movement when both sides—segregationists and activists—tried to use rhetoric with overtones of masculinity to foster assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality. The author begins in Chapter 1, titled "Men and Guns," with a look at the role of black men in World War II. He then looks at the idea of Southern honor and the move to demonize black male sexuality. The author also profiles civil rights activists and groups—from Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panther Party—that provided militant models of manhood. In the final analysis, the author writes that the overall strategy of using masculinist rhetoric and strategies had some positive outcomes but also had a negative impact in further fostering patriarchal ideas to the detriment of women and other groups.

"As a history of the gender and sexual politics of the movement, I Am a Man! is wholly persuasive," wrote Martin Summers in the Historian. "Estes deftly portrays the contested nature of manhood and how it contributed to the marginalization of women and gay men within the movement." In a review in the Journal of Southern History, Jennifer Brooks wrote that the author "ably uses masculinity as a rubric of analysis to recast often familiar events in a gendered mold that illuminates the many shades of the black freedom struggle. His particular strength is found in the richness of detail and anecdote he provides in the events he does cover."

In his 2007 book Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out, Estes draws on more than fifty interviews with gay and lesbian veterans to outline the evolution of the U.S. military's policy toward homosexuals over sixty-five years. "I began interviewing GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] vets after I saw a call for such interviews by the Human Rights Campaign, which is a gay rights group, in 2002," the author noted in an interview on the University of North Carolina Press Web site. "Originally I got into this as an activist, wanting to use my skills as a historian and interviewer to support what I saw as a civil rights issue. When I contacted HRC, they told me about the Veterans History Project run by the Library of Congress." The author went on to note that he contacted the American Veterans for Equal Rights and an American Legion Post in San Francisco that had numerous gay members. Estes commented in the interview: "I started interviewing folks from San Francisco for the Library of Congress project and found that the vets were really excited to tell their stories."

The book's title, Ask & Tell, is a play on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" directive created by the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Essentially, the military policy passed by the U.S. Congress prohibits homosexuals from speaking about their homosexual relationships and prohibits commanders from investigating their troops sexuality as long as the soldier hides his or her sexual orientation. In his book, Estes sets out to highlight the patriotic service and sacrifices of homosexual troops, from World War II on through the Iraq War. In the process, he discusses how the silence about homosexuals in the military has affected the identities of gay veterans and demonstrates that homosexuals have strengthened the U.S. military both in times of war and in times of peace.

"The salient findings arising from Estes's research are that gays and lesbians are not security risks, do not adversely affect combat effectiveness or morale, and offer no threats to the privacy of others," wrote Military Review contributor Jeffrey C. Alfier in a review of Ask & Tell. In his book, Estes also writes about challenges that have been made to the ban on homosexual service in the military and places them within the wider context of the overall gay rights movement. Alfier referred to the book as a "surprisingly refreshing work."



American Historical Review, December, 2006, William L. Van Deburg, review of I Am a Man! Race, Manhood, and the Civil Rights Movement, p. 1549.

Choice, January, 2006, D.C. Catsam, review of I Am a Man!, p. 917.

Historian, summer, 2006, Martin Summers, review of I Am a Man!, p. 342.

Journal of American History, March, 2006, Herman Graham III, review of I Am a Man!, p. 1506.

Journal of Southern History, May, 2006, Jennifer Brooks, review of I Am a Man!, p. 517.

Military Review, September-October, 2007, Jeffrey C. Alfier, review of Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out, p. 147.

Oral History Review, summer-fall, 2007, Horacio Roque Ramirez, review of I Am a Man!, p. 178.

Reviews in American History, December, 2005, Peter J. Ling, "Be a Man, My Son," review of I Am a Man!, p. 601.

Southern Cultures, summer, 2006, Larry Isaac, review of I Am a Man!, p. 96.


H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (February, 2006), Robert W. Widell, review of I Am a Man!

Sonoma State University Web site, (March 31, 2008), faculty profile of author.

Steve Estes Home Page, (March 31, 2008).

University of North Carolina Press, (March 31, 2008), Steve Estes, "Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out," interview with author.