Life before Africa King Leopold II was the king of Belgium from 1865-1908. At that point Belgium was a small country not much older than the king itself. He married Archduchess Marie-Henriette, but it was a loveless and unhappy marriage. King Leopold’s wish was to obtain a colony in Africa. Explorer Henry Morton Stanley seemed like the perfect man to help.
Henry Morton Stanley Henry Morton Stanley born as John Rowland in Wales and was the illegitimate son of Betsey Parry. He grew up in a union workhouse. In 1859 John Rowland traveled to America where he shed his identity. For the rest of his life was known to the world as Henry Morton Stanley, an American. Henry Morton Stanley went to Africa on a quest to find Dr. Livingston, the man who discovered Victorian Falls (the head waters of the Nile). His quest was successful, catching the eye of King Leopold II
Quest for Power King Leopold commissioned Stanley to travel down the Congo river and buy land from Congo chiefs. Because of the language gap, the Congo chiefs were tricked into signing deals that left them with virtually no power. Through negotiations, King Leopold was able to establish a colony for himself. The colony was his and not that of his country, Belgium. Although King Leopold told the world he was trying to save the Congo from the heathenish “Arab Slave Trade”, his real motives were money.
Wealth in the Congo King Leopold saw that he could make a lot of money out of the Congo from ivory and mainly rubber. In order to transport goods, he decided to build a railroad. King Leopold never went to Africa himself The railroad took many workers and years to build, in the end resulting in a rickety dangerous track. Although King Leopold condemned the “Arab Slave Trade”, he instituted slavery of the Africans during his regime
Rubber Acquiring rubber was an arduous and dangerous task
Cruelty The native Africans were put to work gathering rubber from vines. If they did not fill their quota, the Europeans would shoot them. When the Congolese died the people under King Leopold’s power would cut off the right hand of the dead African.
For the previous picture The hands of the boy sitting were destroyed by gangrene because soldiers had tied them too tightly The right hand of the boy standing was cut off by a soldier who claimed he was dead.
Knowledge The outside world was largely unaware of the horrors going on in the Congo because not a lot was printed in the paper E.D. Morel a worker for the Liverpool shipping line, the primary company carrying goods to and from the Congo, noticed that the ships to the Congo were carrying more military supplies than trading goods. The only explanation for this was that there was slavery going on in the Congo He had an uncanny ability to find out information, and he started a campaign against the cruelty in he Congo.
Campaign against King Leopold’s Congo Sir Roger Casement also joined E.D. Morel in the effort to let the world know about the atrocities in the Congo George Washington Williams was the first to report from the front of the evil going on in the Congo Casement had also seen first hand the dreadfulness of the Congo, and he did not hold back writing about it to newspapers.
Sir Roger Casement
George Washington Williams
The end of King Leopold’s regime in Congo King Leopold eventually had to sell his Congo to the Belgium government because…. -The movement against him and his Congo was growing stronger. King Leopold had hired Colonel Henry I. Kowalsky, an influential famous American lawyer, in hopes of appeasing the American public because Morel had stirred them up. However, only a year after King Leopold had hired Kowalsky he decided to put him out of circulation and send him on a side mission to Nigeria. Kowalsky, angered by this rejection leaked confidential information about the Congo to the newspaper New York America
Congo: a colony of Belgium Kowalsky triggered a series of other schemes against King Leopold, and finally in the March of 1908 Congo was sold to the Belgian government
King Leopold’s Ghost Finally, in 1960 the Congo was granted independence. However, the people of Congo by that time were little adept to sustain a government. Even with independence, the rulers took advantage of the Congo that King Leopold had left such a mess.