Channing Joseph

Journalist. Queer Culture Historian.

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Channing Gerard Joseph (he/him or she/her) is an award-winning journalist and writer who has earned global recognition for his meticulous historical research and writing about William Dorsey Swann, a formerly enslaved Black person who became the earliest-known American queer activist and the first-known self-described drag queen.

Joseph is a 2020 winner of a Logan Nonfiction Fellowship and a 2019 winner of both a Whiting Grant for Creative Nonfiction and a Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowship for his forthcoming biography, House of Swann: Where Slaves Became Queens.

Through the lens of Swann’s extraordinary life, House of Swann tells the forgotten history of the earliest efforts at queer resistance and liberation in America, just after the Civil War.

The Whiting Foundation jury wrote: “It is impossible not to be excited about Channing Gerard Joseph’s great feat of historical research. ... This is crisp and evocative history that cuts across many different fields of inquiry in order to document a riveting story about the function and flourishing of beauty in marginalized communities. Joseph has a talent for accumulating witty, atmospheric details that together create an irresistibly immersive world. Through tireless archival work and in consultation with noted academics, ... Joseph complicates and expands our understanding of the history of LGBTQ activism and African American history.”

Born in a family of New Orleans jazz musicians, Joseph is a proud descendant of the enslaved people who built America and gave it soul. As a reminder of his roots, he displays a record on his bookshelf of an 1843 auction at which his 5th-great-grandfather purchased the freedom of three sons.

Joseph is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Columbia Journalism School. In his spare time, he enjoys sci-fi movies, roller coasters, acrobatics, and creating Afro-futurist art.

For general inquiries, feel free to reach him at



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