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social sciences

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Casement, Roger (1864-1916)  
page: 1  2  

Casement was immediately taken to London and tried for treason. He was convicted, stripped of his knighthood, and condemned to death on June 29. After his sentencing he gave an impassioned statement before the court, asserting Ireland's right to freedom and his right to be tried in an Irish rather than English court.

Casement's appeal of the verdict was dismissed, and he was hanged on August 3. On the eve of this execution he was baptized into the Catholic church.

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The Diaries

After Casement's arrest, the British had seized some of his possessions including two sets of diaries that came to be known as the black and the white. Neither set was introduced at Casement's trial, but the British reportedly used the black diaries, in which he recorded homosexual activities, to deter potential sympathizers, including the American ambassador, from pressing for clemency after the sentence. In a real sense, Casement was hanged almost as much for being a homosexual as for being a traitor.

Following the trial British authorities sequestered the diaries, at times refusing even to acknowledge their existence.

The authenticity of the white diaries, Casement's record of his investigations of atrocities in Africa and South America, has never been doubted. Some have contended, however, that the black diaries, with their references to homosexuality, were entirely or in part forged. The secrecy in which they were held only fueled speculation.

The British use of the black diaries in order to discredit Casement certainly bespeaks , but so does the Irish nationalists' insistence that their hero could not possibly be gay and the diaries therefore must be forged.

The diaries were finally made public in 1959, but the controversy has continued in spite of increasing evidence that the writings are genuine.

During his lifetime Casement apparently concealed his sexual orientation quite successfully--which is not surprising since disclosure would have made him liable to criminal prosecution. Not even his family and close associates seem to have known of his sexuality--or at least they never acknowledged it publicly.

One of his republican compatriots, Michael Collins, did, however, state upon being shown a portion of the black diaries in 1921 that he believed them to be in Casement's own hand.

Experts who have recently examined the documents reached the same conclusion. In a study funded partly by the Irish government and partly by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Dr. Audrey Giles, one of Britain's most respected forensic analysts, called the black diaries genuine and free of interpolations.

Casement's grandnephew Patrick Casement, a psychoanalyst, expressed confidence in Giles's assessment.

Posthumous Honors

As part of a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Uprising, Casement's body was disinterred from a grave at Pentonville Prison and brought home to Ireland for a full state funeral. The great Irish hero and first president of the Republic, Eamon de Valera, himself a veteran of the Rising, eulogized Casement. He praised his fallen comrade not only for his brave service in the cause of Irish freedom but also for his extraordinary humanitarian zeal in fighting for the dignity and human rights of all, declaring that Casement would have been "remembered by oppressed people everywhere even if he had done nothing for the freedom of his own country."

A martyr for the cause of Irish nationalism, Casement was also a gay martyr inasmuch as his death was at least facilitated by the homosexual scandal that the black diaries recorded.

Linda Rapp

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Carr, Raymond. "All Put Down in Black and White." The Spectator (London) (November 22, 1997): 49-51.

Casement, Roger. Roger Casement's Diaries; 1910: The Black and the White. Roger Sawyer, ed. London: Pimlico, 1997.

Caserio, Robert L. "Casement, Roger." Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia. George E. Haggerty, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 173.

Donnelly, Rachel. "Academics Say Casement's Black Diaries Genuine Following Forensic Examination." The Irish Times (March 13, 2002): 9.

McCormack, W.J. Roger Casement in Death, or Haunting the Free State. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2002.

McGee, Harry. "The Truth in Black and White." Sunday Tribune (Ireland) (March 17, 2002): 15.

Singleton-Gates, Peter, and Maurice Girodias. The Black Diaries. New York: Grove, 1959.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Casement, Roger  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated February 28, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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