(6) Queer Historical Figures You Thought Were Straight

From da Vinci to Malcolm X, these icons are straight-washed in most history books

I’m embarrassed to admit that up until a few days ago, I was completely unaware that Angela Davis is a lesbian. It made me think — if I, a bisexual leftist and passionate devotee of Angela Davis, was not aware, how many other people must be unaware?

Malcolm X

As we all know, Malcolm X was a prominent human rights activist and advocate for black empowerment and socialism. He became a leader of the Nation of Islam in the early 1950s, though he later renounced it while still remaining a committed Muslim. In 1965, he was tragically assassinated at the young age of 39.

Angela Davis

As I mentioned earlier, Marxist Black feminist activist and scholar Angela Davis identifies as a lesbian. There’s no mystery around this because she publicly acknowledged her sexuality in 1998 in an interview with Out magazine.

Leonardo da Vinci

Any serious Western history textbook will include a decent amount of details on Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci. He was a seminal painter, inventor, and intellectual of the High Renaissance in the late 1400s and early 1500s. He’s considered one of the greatest artists of all time (at least in the Western canon), and he made notable discoveries in a broad range of fields including civil engineering, geology, hydrodynamics, anatomy, etc. Some historians even credit him with inventing the helicopter, the tank, and the parachute.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt is most commonly known as the wife and first lady of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She’s often lauded as one of the greatest first ladies in US history, alongside one of the greatest presidents in US history.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is a well-known and highly celebrated Mexican artist. In the US, she’s been revered as a feminist icon at least since the women’s movement of the 60s and 70s. But most historical materials that highlight her influence in the art world completely overlook her sexuality. Although her marriage to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera is usually addressed, even many of her fans are unaware that she was bisexual.

Anne Frank

I first learned about Anne Frank in elementary school, when I read parts of her diary. I remember learning that she was Jewish and that she and her family had attempted to escape Nazi persecution by hiding in Amsterdam. I learned that she had been captured by Nazis and transported to a concentration camp after years in hiding. And that, tragically, she had died at the tender age of 15.

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