Douglas M. Charles, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History

The Pennsylvania State University,

Greater Allegheny campus

Twitter: @DouglasMCharles

Amazon Author Page





Ph.D., history, University of Edinburgh ( 2002 ) *

            -Supervisors: Profs. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, David Stafford, Athan Theoharis (informally)

M.A., history, Marquette University ( 1997 )

           -Supervisor: Prof. Athan Theoharis

B.A., history, Pennsylvania State University ( 1995 )



American History, Modern U.S., FBI, Gay & Lesbian History, Obscenity Regulation, Intelligence History, Foreign Relations, Political History, World History, 20th century Europe








Hoover's War on Gays: Exposing the FBI's "Sex Deviates" Program (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2015).



“A significant contribution to the literature on the gay and lesbian movements, on the history of the FBI, and on the political and cultural changes shaping twentieth century U.S.”
Athan Theoharis, author of The FBI and American Democracy: A Brief Critical History


"A brilliant and fascinating look at the FBI's decades-long interest in gays, one of the best things I have read about the FBI in years. It is an impressive achievement and very readable. The manuscript is a particularly remarkable accomplishment considering the fact that the most important files related to the FBI's monitoring of homosexuals were all destroyed years ago. Charles managed to work around that problem by obtaining related files and following the threads in those accounts which, in turn, led him to others. He has managed, without access to the most comprehensive files, to nonetheless weave a clear narrative that explores the Bureau's work on his topic in great detail. This will be a groundbreaking book, covering a topic in FBI history that has not been previously explored in any significant way."
-Matthew Cecil, author of Hoover's FBI and the Fourth Estate: The Campaign to Control the Press and the Bureau's Image


"Douglas Charles is one of the most original and scholarly historians of our day. Hoover's War on Gays, his empathetic expose of a great American injustice, is his best book yet." Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of The FBI: A History and the CIA and American Democracy


The National Review's review.

The Bay Area Reporter's review.

"By throwing out the sensationalism, Hollywood and otherwise, Charles makes possible his cool but devastating chronicle of what can be known about FBI covert investigation of homosexuals in the 20th century and Hoover's role in the design and implementation of the programs to undertake it. "

"This is not the Penn State historian's first book critical of the FBI, but it's as probing a book about its stated topic as we're ever likely to see."

"History of the caliber of Charles' incalculably important book is as necessary as the efforts of the straight Snowdens and the testimony of the gay Greenwalds in preventing it all from happening again. A man named Trump could appoint the next FBI director."

"But what becomes apparent over the book's 400 pages is that it is, in addition, an invaluable, concise history of the gay liberation and rights movement in the United States. Deliberate or not, the author lets the FBI insinuate itself into the larger story of gay oppression and its discontents in an eerie replication of the way the Bureau actually did exactly just that."



Book Talks for Hoover's War On Gays:

Penn State Greater Allegheny, 14 September 2015

National Archives at Kansas City, MO, 22 October 2015

Blackwell's Bookshop, Edinburgh, Scotland, 26 November 2015



AUDIO clips related to Hoover's War on Gays




The FBI's Obscene File: J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau's Crusade Against Smut [1910-2011] (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012).


“Originality. Not many scholars achieve it, but Charles impresses with this example of breakthrough, research scholarship in a new field. His interpretive thrust, seeing the FBI as the creature of societal changes, personality, and politics, throws light on topics as diverse as the Lavender Scare of the 1950s and the neoconservative appeal to moralism in the recent presidency of George Bush. If you are at all interested in the deeper currents of American history, read this book.” Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of The FBI: A History, & The CIA and American Democracy

“An important contribution to our understanding of the FBI’s history and of the politics of morality shaping 20th-century America. Charles’s insightful and well-researched monograph explores a heretofore neglected aspect of the FBI’s role in 20th-century America and also offers insights that extend our understanding of the moralistic responses to the sweeping societal changes transforming popular culture.” Athan Theoharis, author of The FBI and American Democracy, & Abuse of Power: How Cold War Surveillance & Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11

“Charles has produced a thorough, well-researched and clearly written volume on an important subject which has not been studied before—the FBI’s interest in and investigations of ‘obscenity.’ His scholarship is sound, reasonable, accurate and objective and should capture the attention of anyone interested in either the FBI or obscenity law (or both).” Robert Justin Goldstein, author of Political Repression in Modern America, and American Blacklist: The Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations

“Douglas Charles provides a fascinating inside look at the history of the FBI and its fight against obscenity. Covering administrations from Roosevelt to Bush, this is an important addition to the growing scholarship on the history of pornography in America and its pivotal role in our politics and culture.” David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, and editor of The United States since 1945: A Documentary Reader

“J. Edgar Hoover’s Obscene File has long been an archival black box, the kind of thing historians discuss in hushed tones of mystery. Douglas Charles is the first to access its contents, uncovering new information on targets of investigation ranging from Abbott & Costello to Linda Lovelace. Best of all, in The FBI’s Obscene File the file itself takes organic form, and, as we watch it grow, mutate, and transform, Charles shows us in concrete form how bureaucracy evolves and what forces determine its trajectories.” Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

Brooklyn Rail

The Page 99 Test

H-HistSex/ H-Net Review

A Comment on the Library Journal's Problematic Review

Dublin Review of Books

Political Science Quarterly

American Historical Review

Journal of American History

Journal of American Studies

Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

The Historian


J. Edgar Hoover and the Anti-interventionists: FBI Political Surveillance and the Rise of the Domestic Security State, 1939-45 (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2007; paperback 2015).



“Douglas Charles’s monograph offers new information about the late 1930s public and congressional debate over President Roosevelt’s interventionist foreign policy decisions and about the politics of foreign policy. J. Edgar Hoover and the Anti-interventionists adds an important dimension to other works that have focused on FBI counterespionage policy relating to Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.” —Athan Theoharis, professor of history emeritus, Marquette University

JAH review, September 2008

AHR review, October 2008

The Historian

The Review of a self-described individualist feminist & anarchist


Future Research Plans:

Edit and scan to PDF for public, electronic access the Administrative File of the FBI's Obscene File

History of the FBI --- I plan to write a synthesis of all existing significant FBI scholarship, plus some original research ;

Biography of Donald Webster Cory / Edward Sagarin


Refereed Journal Articles:


Parts of Books:

"Policing Public Morality: Hoover's FBI, Obscenity, and Homosexuality," chapter in "True Faith and Allegiance": Religion and the FBI (forthcoming with University of California Press), eds., Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman.


"Informing FDR," published afterwards in Walter Hixon, ed., The American Experience in World War II: Isolationists and Internationalists, the Battle over Interventions, vol 2 (New York: Routledge, 2002).

"FBI Political Surveillance and the Charles Lindbergh Investigation," published aftewards in Hixon, ed., The American Experience in World War II.
"American, British, and Canadian Intelligence Links," reprinted in David Stafford and Rhodri-Jeffreys-Jones, eds., American-British-Canadian Intelligence Relations, 1939-2000 (London & Portland: Frank Cass, 2000).



Pieces For the General Public, Media Mentions:

Researching Hoover's War on Gays: Exposing the FBI's "Sex Deviates" Program, (September 2015)

Interviewed in "New Film About US Persecution of Gays Spurs Calls to Remove Hoover's Name From FBI Building," Yahoo News (26 June 2015).

Noted in PBS News Hour, Friday 26 June 2015.

"Doc on 1950s-era ‘war on gays’ premieres," Washington Blade, 18 June 2015.

Commenter, in Michael Isikoff's documentary film: "Uniquely Nasty: The US Government's War on Gays," Yahoo News, Viewfinder (June 2015). And in this story.

Referenced in the New York Times, 21 May 2014.

"How Did the IRS get Investigative Authority?," History News Network, 21 May 2013.

"Ten Things You Don't Know About J. Edgar Hoover," commentator, H2 (History Channel 2), 5 March 2012.

"An FBI Historian Reviews 'J. Edgar,'" The Boston Globe,, 24 November 2011.

"The Real J. Edgar Hoover," guest on National Public Radio's program On Point with Tom Ashbrook, 9 November 2011.

"Kennedy's FBI File: Less Than Meets the Eye," The Boston Globe,, 1 March 2011.

"What We Can Learn From Hamilton and Another "Bail Out," History News Network, 13 October 2008.

"Is It Really Wise to Expand the FBI's Investigative Techniques?," History News Network, 29 September 2008.

"Was Gonzales's Historical Defence of NSA Eavesdropping Convincing?," History News Network, 20 February 2006.



Review of the film 1971, in The American Historian (OAH), February 2015.

Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2014), by Jessica R. Pliley for The Journal of American History 102:2 (September 2015): 583-584..

The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida's Lindbergh Case (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2014), by Robert & Zack Waters for Florida Historical Quarterly 93:3 (Winter 2015), 482-485.

Obscenity Rules: Roth v. United States and the Long Struggle over Sexual Expression (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013), by Whitney Strub for Journal of American Studies.

Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012), by Craig M. Loftin, for H-HistSex.H-Net.

J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood's Cold War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012), by John Sbardellati, for The Historian 75:3 (October 2013): 584-85.

MH/CHAOS: The CIA's Campaign Against the Radical New Left and the Black Panthers (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011), by Frank J. Rafalko, for Intelligence and National Security (published online 5 March 2015).

The FBI: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, for The Historian 71:3 (Fall 2009): 607-08.

American Blacklist: The Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008), by Robert Goldstein, for History: Review of New Books 37:4 (Summer 2009), 138-39.

Yugoslav-Americans and National Security during World War II (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), by Lorraine M. Lees, for American Historical Review 113:4 (October 2008): 1188.

The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago press: 2004), by David K. Johnson, for H-USA/H-Net (May 2004).

Lindbergh (New York: Putnam, 1998), by A. Scott berg, for History 84 (October 1999): 698-699.


Conference Papers & Invited Talks:

“FBI Surveillance of Buell Dwight Huggins and the First Mattachine Society in Washington, 1954 - 1975," presented to the Southwestern Social Science Association annual meeting, San Antonio, Texas, 19 April 2014.

"The FBI’s Monitoring of Early Gay Rights: Homosexuals Anonymous and Donald Webster Cory/ Edward Sagarin," presented to the Penn State Behrend Sexuality and Gender Conference, Erie, PA, 12 April 2014.

"Bully!: Teddy Roosevelt, Conservation, and Masculinity," PSU-GA International Women's Day & World Water Day Commemoration, 28 March 2013.

"The FBI, Obscenity, and History," presented to Penn State West Humanities and Social Sciences Colloquium Series, Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, Erie, PA, 18 October 2012 (invited talk).

"A Struggle for Civil Rights: The LGBT Movement," presented to the McDonough Center for Leadership and Business, Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio, 5 March 2012 (invited talk).

"Nixon, Hoover, and Obscenity," presented to the British Association for American Studies, 56th Annual Conference, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, England, 15 April 2011.

"The FBI's Curious Investigation of Harry Hay, 1943-61," presented to Conference on the History of American Rights, San Francisco State University, 17 September 2009.

"'The Victim of a Degenerate': The Origins of the FBI's Surveillance of Gays, 1937," presented to the British Association for American Studies, 53 Annual Conference, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, March 2008.

"The FBI, the Mattachine Society, and One, Inc.: Gay Subversion in the 1950s," Organization of American Historians annual meeting, Washington, DC, 23 April 2006.

"Hoover, Donovan, Roosevelt, and the Origins of American Central Intelligence, 1940-41," presented to the 4th Annual Conference of the Scottish Association for the Study of America, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, 8 November 2002.

"FBI Wiretapping and the Anti-interventionists, 1940-42: A Hypothesis," presented to the Fifth International Symposium on Telecommunications History, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 26 September 1997.

"FBI Political Surveillance and the Charles Lindbergh Investigation, 1939-1944," presented to the 31st Annual Northern Great Plains History Conference, LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 19 September 1996.




Penn State University Commission on LGBT Equity Academic Achievement Award (2015)

Penn State Greater Allegheny Excellence in Research Award (2015)

Course release to complete FBI & gays book, PSU-GA (Sp. 2014)

Challenge Coin, U.S. Naval Academy (2013)

Grant (co-applicant), PSU Office of Global Programs, embedded study abroad trip, Vietnam (2012)

Listed in Contemporary Authors ( 2011 ) & the Writers Directory (2012)

Course release to complete FBI & obscenity, PSU-GA ( Sp. 2010 )

Research & Conference grants, Marietta College ( 2006 )

Grant, Harry S Truman Presidential Library ( 2004 )

British Academy-funded researcher, FBI project with Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones ( 2002 )

Visiting Research Fellowship, Princeton University ( 1999 )

Grant, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library ( 1999 )

Grant, Roosevelt Study Centre, Middelburg, Netherlands ( 1999 )

Grant, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming ( 1999 )

British government-awarded Overseas Research Studentship (ORS Award), University of Edinburgh ( 1999-01 )

Scholarship, American Friends of Edinburgh University ( 1999-2000 )

Research Assistantship, Marquette University ( 1995-97 )

Tuition Scholarships, Marquette University ( 1995- 1997 )

Pennsylvania State University -- Behrend College History Award ( 1995 )



American Civilization since 1877
American Civilization to 1877

World Civilizations to 1500
World Civilizations since 1500
The World at War, 1939-45
Fascism & Nazism
History of the FBI

Vietnam in War & Peace
Embedded foreign Study (DaNang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hoi An, Vietnam, Summer 2012)

Upper Level:

US Intelligence History
Gay & Lesbian History
Comparative Genocide


Independent Studies supervised:

FDR & the New Deal (400-level)

Vietnam & the American Experience (400-level)

Media Views of Gays (400-level)


Courses / programs developed:

History of the FBI (HIST/ CrimJ 159)

Sports Administration certificate (SPTADM)



Service Activity:

External reader, history thesis honors committee (FBI topic), U.S. Naval Academy (26 Jan. 2013): S. Flores, "J. Edgar Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt:
The Expansion of FBI Power and Autonomy to Combat German Espionage."

Member, history undergraduate honors thesis committee, Penn State Behrend (2008): S. Medilovic, "'Moral Degeneracy': FBI Investigation of Philip R. Faymonville & the Lend-Lease Mission to the Soviet Union."

Manuscript reviewer, University Press of Kansas

Book proposal reviewer: Edinburgh University Press, University Press of Kansas

Manuscript reviewer, The Journal of the History of Sexuality, The Historian, Journal of American History, Journal of Communication Inquiry

Textbook Reviewer, Bedford St. Martin's



Affiliate member, PSU Commission on LGBT Equity (2012-2013)

Campus subcommittee of the University Council on Engaged Scholarship (2014- )



University College Faculty Council, 2016-2017



Chancellor/CAO Search Committee (2014)

Campus Awards Development Committee (2014)

Chair, PSU-GA Faculty Senate (2014-2015)

Chair and member, [revived] Faculty Council (2011-2013; 2014-2015)

PSU-GA Senate Parliamentarian (2013-2014)

Chair-elect, PSU-GA Faculty Senate (2013-2014)

Chair, campus Student Life Committee (2011-2013)

Faculty Affairs Committee

Academic Affairs Committee

Curriculum Committee

Teaching International Executive Committee

Student Activity Fee Committee

Campus discipline Coordinator for history


Academic Appointments

Associate Professor of History (2014 - present), The Pennsylvania State University, Greater Allegheny

Assistant Professor of History (2008-2014), The Pennsylvania State University, Greater Allegheny

Lecturer of History (2006-2008, two year contract), The Pennsylvania State University, Behrend College

Assistant Professor of History (2005-2006, one year contract), Marietta College, Marietta, Ohi0

Lecturer of History (2004-2005, one year contract), The Pennsylvania State University, Behrend College

Adjunct Lecturer of History (Jan., 2003-2004), The Pennsylvania State University, Behrend College

Tutor of History (2000-2002) Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland






My father built this wonderful Jefferson book stand for me.


Professor Charles' Great Great Great Grandparents Johns, ca. 1860

Professor Charles' Great Grandfather Stojan Pavlovic (far right),

immigrant, Slavic bar owner in McKeesport, PA, ca., 1910s


My Great Grandmother Danica Pavlovic, reputed expert pool player (1920 Atlantic City Women's Billiards Champion [unconfirmed])

& immigrant in her ethnic, Serbian (from Croatia) costume, ca. 1910s.

(She died in 1922.)


Family business during the Progressive Era: offering "warm baths" (in Serbian) to steel workers