Douglas M. Charles, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
The Pennsylvania State University,
M.A., history, Marquette University ( 1997 )
-Supervisor: Prof. Athan Theoharis
B.A., history, Pennsylvania State University ( 1995 )
FIELDS of INTEREST:
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).
Named Best LGBT Non-fiction in history (2015) by the Bay Area Reporter.
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.
"Charless book is an excellent example of how to write about a dark chapter in the Bureaus past without venting. The author is remarkably objective about a time when a prude, and possible hypocrite, lumped gays in with authentic traitors. "
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."
ORIGINS: Current Events in Historical Perspective's review.
"Charles has written a well-researched, highly readable and ultimately compelling book about how the FBIs policies and actions towards gays have been influenced by a variety of personalities, events and different social, cultural and political forces."
Lambda Literary Review's review.
"I confess to a degree of skepticism when I began reading Douglas M. Charless new tome, Hoovers War on Gays: Exposing the FBIs Sex Deviates Program. The activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and J. Edgar Hoover, its insufferable longtime director, would seem by this point to be well-worn scholarly territory. The field is both broad and deep. ... Meanwhile, Douglas Charles himself has surveyed the FBIs role in the rise of the domestic security state. In his brief and brilliant exposé, The FBIs Obscene File, he also described the bureaus classification of alleged obscene materials, including how it used such classification to attempt to destroy the organized gay and lesbian movement. ... But as is often the case, a thorough scholarly explication of the role and importance of gays and lesbians to any particular historical moment has been the last to arrive. Fortunately, though, Hoovers War on Gays is that necessary book. ... For a thorough treatment of those forces, Hoovers War on Gays will likely remain unsurpassed."
The Journal of American History's, vol 103, review
"Because the FBI destroyed forty years of historical records, we will probably never know the full extent of its crusade against gays. Hoover's War on Gays is likely to be the clearest and most complete understanding we can get."
The American Historical Review's, Review, vol 122, review
"Douglas M. Charles offers us a helpful reminder of those darker times in his book Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program. It is “the first comprehensive history of” what, he claims, was the FBI’s “interest in, obsession with, and politics surrounding gays, lesbians and their respective organizations.”
"This well-researched book, comprised of eight lengthy chapters, draws heavily on primary sources from presidential libraries, FBI records, oral histories, and government reports."
Book Talks for Hoover's War On Gays:
Penn State Greater Allegheny, 14 September 2015
Blackwell's Bookshop, Edinburgh, Scotland, 26 November 2015
JP Morgan & Co., New York City, 13 June, 2016
Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, 6 February 2017
The FBI's Sex Deviates File has been destroyed, but find the Sex Deviates Program Policy memo here
The FBI's file on State Department & CIA Officer Carmel Offie, click to link here
The FBI's file on State Department Officer Charles Thayer
The FBI's files on the Mattachine Society (California, New York, DC, & FBI Field Office files), & founders Harry Hay, Bob Hull, & Chuck Rowland. Plus W. Dorr Legg; Donald Webster Cory; B.D. Huggins; Daughters of Bilitis
The FBI's file on State Department security chief, and former FBI agent, Scott McLeod
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 FBIs history and of the politics of morality shaping 20th-century America. Charless insightful and well-researched monograph explores a heretofore neglected aspect of the FBIs 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 beforethe FBIs 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 Hoovers 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 FBIs 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
The FBI's file on its Anti-Obscenity Squad of the 2000s.
Charless monograph offers new information about the late 1930s public
and congressional debate over President Roosevelts 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,
Future Research Plans:
* Dual/comparative History of the American FBI and British MI-5--- it will also synthesize all existing significant FBI scholarship, plus some original research
Refereed Journal Articles:
"'A Source of Great Embarrassment to the Bureau': Gay Activist Jack Nichols, His FBI Agent Father, and the Mattachine Society of Washington," The Historian (forthcoming).
"Communist and Homosexual: The FBI, Harry Hay, and the Secret Side of the Lavender Scare, 1943-61," American Communist History11:1 (2012): 101-124.
"From Subversion to Obscenity: The FBI's Investigations of the Early Homophile Movement, 1953-58," Journal of the History of Sexuality 19:2 (May 2010): 262-87.
"'Before the Colonel Arrived': Hoover, Donovan, Roosevelt, and the Origins of American Central Intelligence," Intelligence and National Security 20 (Summer 2005): 225-37.
"Informing FDR: FBI Political Surveillance and the Isolationist-Interventionist Foreign Policy Debate, 1939-1945," Diplomatic History 24 (Spring 2000): 211-32.
"American, British, and Canadian Intelligence Links: A Critical Annotated Bibliography," Intelligence and National Security 15 (Summer 2000): 259-69.
"FBI Political Surveillance and the Charles Lindbergh Investigation, 1939-1944," The Historian 59 (Summer 1997): 831-47.
"Policing Public Morality: Hoover's FBI, Obscenity, and Homosexuality," chapter in The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11 (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 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).
The Administrative File of the FBI's Obscene File, with introduction (also found on ScholarSphere)
Pieces For the General Public, Interviews, Media Mentions:
"So How Did it Work Out After All Those Elections When the Popular & Electoral Votes Were Split?," History News Network (HNN) (20 November 2016).
Interviewed and quoted in "'Comey Effect': Where Does the FBI Director Stand as Election Dust Settles?," by Safia Ali, NBC News (19 November 2016).
Interviewed and noted in LE PARISIEN MAGAZINE, " L’homme qui a fait chuter Hillary Clinton, [The Man Who Brought Down Hillary Clinton]" by Stéphane Loignon (18 November 2016)
"FBI Head Comey and the 2016 Election: Echoes of J. Edgar Hoover," Yahoo News, (17 November 2017).
Interviwed by Charles Feldman on KNX Radio News, Los Angeles, about the FBI and Director James Comey (7 November 2016).
"Did You Know the FBI Probe of the Clinton Foundation Began with a Book Written by a Partisan Hack? It's Not the First Time the FBI's Done This Sort of Thing," History News Network (HNN) (6 November 2016).
Interviewed and quoted in "The Anti-Clinton Insurgency at the FBI, Explained," by Yochi Dreazen, VOX (5 November 2016).
Interviewed and quoted in "FBI Veterans, Historians See Leaks as 'Dangerous' and 'Unprecedented,'" by Joe Strupp, Media Matters for America (4 November 2016)
Interviewed for and noted in "Leaks About Clinton, Trump Signal Dissenion Within FBI Against Comey, DoJ," by Stephen Loiacconi, WJLA, Washington DC, (1 November 2016)
"Donald Trump, His Porn Pledge, & the Historic Relevance," University of Kansas Press Blog (18 August 2016).
"J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the 'Sex Deviates' Program, an Interview of Douglas M. Charles by Christopher Michael Elias," NotchesBlog (21 June 2016).
"Does the 1896 Presidential Election Shed Light on Today's Politics?," History News Network (14 February 2016).
Book Talk: "Hoover's War on Gays: Exposing the FBI's 'Sex Deviates' Program," C-SPAN 3 (5 December 2015).
"The FBI's Long, Horrible War on Gays," History News Network (15 December 2015).
"Researching Hoover's War on Gays: Exposing the FBI's 'Sex Deviates' Program," OutHistory.org (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.
"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, boston.com, 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, boston.com, 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:
"J. Edgar Hoover, Gay Baiting, and FBI Influence in Washington," presented at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Erie, PA, 6 February 2017.
"'Sex Deviates' and the FBI: How Hoover's FBI Responded When it Learned an Agent had a Gay Activist Son," presented to the Organization of American Historians annual meeting, Providence, Rhode Island, 10 April 2016; also presented at the Penn State Commission on LGBT Equity 25th Anniversary Interdisciplinary Academic Symposium, 22 April 2016, State College, PA.
"Hoover's War on Gays: Book Talk," given at National Archives at Kansas City, MO, 22 October 2015, sponsored by National Archives -KC, Gay & Lesbian Archives of Mid-America, Truman Center UMKC, Harry S. Truman Library, University Press of Kansas. Also given at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, 26 November 2015.
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 FBIs 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.
RECOGNITIONS, AWARDS, GRANTS, & FELLOWSHIPS:
Penn State Greater Allegheny Excellence in Research Award (2015)
Sabbatical leave, Fall 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 & PeaceEmbedded foreign Study (DaNang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hoi An, Vietnam, Summer 2012)
History of American Obscenity Regulation (AM ST 491W)
US Intelligence History
Gay & Lesbian History
Independent Studies supervised:
FDR & the New Deal (400-level)
Vietnam & the American Experience (400-level)
Media Views of Gays (400-level)
Courses / programs developed:
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."
Book Manuscript reviewer, University Press of Kansas
Book proposal reviewer: Edinburgh University Press, University Press of Kansas
Article Manuscript reviewer:
The Journal of the History of Sexuality, The Historian, Journal of American History, Journal of Communication Inquiry, Intelligence and National Security
Textbook Reviewer: Bedford St. Martin's
Affiliate member, PSU Commission on LGBT Equity (2012-2013)
Campus subcommittee of the University Council on Engaged Scholarship (2014-2015 )
University College Faculty Council, 2016-2018
P&T Disciplinary Representative: Penn State Mont Alto, Penn State Fayette, 2016-2017
Campus Promotion & Tenure Committee (2016-2018)
Chair, Globalization & Sustainability Drafting Committee (2016-2017)
Revised PSU-GA Constitution & Bylaws for Election of Standing Committee Chairs (2016)
Chair, campus Academic Affairs Committee (2016-2018)
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; 2016-2017)
Chair-elect, PSU-GA Faculty Senate (2013-2014)
Chair, campus Student Life Committee (2011-2013)
Faculty Affairs Committee
Academic Affairs Committee
Teaching International Executive Committee
Student Activity Fee Committee
Campus discipline Coordinator for history
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
Teaching Assistant (1996), for Senator George McGovern, US Foreign Policy, Marquette University
Feeder, 3-Stand Tandem Mill, LTV Steel, Aliquippa, PA (Summer 1995)
Labor Gang, LTV Steel, Aliquippa, PA (Summer, 1994; Winter 1998)
Stockperson, Kmart, Rochester, PA (1990-1993)
Employee, Tusca Drive-in, Brighton TWP, PA (1988-1989)
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
The bar was located around this location in McKeesport prior to the bridge's construction
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
Where I worked one summer while a college student. I had the job of the guy on the left. It was awful.