We’ve been so caught up in The Totally Frightful Issue that we almost forgot that October’s gay history month. Almost.
It may be a bit unfair to label mining mogul and imperialist Cecil John Rhodes a homo. While there’s no direct evidence he ever partook in sex of the homosexual variety, he did forego marriage and kept a bevy of exclusively attractive male servants and companions. The men, of course, were forbidden to marry and went with Rhodes everywhere.
Though it may all be conjecture, Rhodes’ sexuality has been questioned by many historians. Also, we think colonization is just so gay.
Born to a priest in England in 1853, Rhodes had a weak constitution. Thus, as a teenager, his parents sent him to live in the warm-climated Natal region of South Africa, where Rhodes would help his brother grow cotton. Little did they know they’d change the the world forever.
Find out more about Rhodes and his dastardly ways, after the jump.
(As a side note, on of the Queerty boys spent some time studying at University of Cape Town. There’s a memorial of Rhodes near the mountain campus. He’s staring out across the land below with more the most evil eyes ever captured in stone. It’s pretty fucking scary.)
After starting a fruit farm, Rhodes decided to capitalize on South Africa’s newly discovered gold and diamond mines. And capitalize he did. Founding the DeBeers Diamond Company with CD Rudd and John Merriman, Rhodes would go on to become one of the richest men in the world.
While building his business in South Africa, Rhodes traveled back to England to spend a whopping eight years working toward his degree. Upon his return to South Africa, Rhodes threw his hat into the political ring and got elected to the Cape House of Assembly.
Once he became Prime Minister of the Cape Parliament in 1890, Rhodes helped push through the Glen Grey act, thus seizing land from Blacks and further segregating the country. His success would be dampened, however, by the failed Jameson Raid, which hoped to ignite a British uprising in the Afrikaaner dominated Transvaal region of the country. Once his involvement in the scheme came to light, Rhodes knelt to popular pressure and left Parliament.
Fiercely loyal to his British roots, Rhodes became even more obsessed with expanding British power across Southern Africa. Using the British South Africa Company – another of his mining companies, this one with its own paramilitary force – Rhodes sent workers into what is now Zimbabwe and Zambia. Faced with an uprising, the BSAC used force to take over the region, leading to the establishment of the expansive colonial state, Rhodesia. The country would be named such until its independence in 1980, long after Rhodes’ 1902 death.
While Rhodes may have been a key colonial figure, he did leave a considerable amount of his enormous fortune behind in the form of Rhodes Scholarships.
Good to know some good came out of all that evil.