Famous Writers against an Infamous King
Post on 16-Jul-2015
Famous Writers Against an Infamous King
Miroslav Atanasov, Ph.D.
Famous Writers Against an Infamous KingClassic British and American literature exposing the horrors of the Congo Free State
IntroductionAt times of great crises, disasters, and historical tragedies, often individuals would rise who speak the truth and raise their voices for righteousness. As a result beautiful writings and memorable speeches can be birthed and we are enriched as future generations to those dark times!In this lecture we will learn the learn the following:
I. The obscure and sad history of the Congo Free State (1885-1908).
II. Some powerful pieces of activist literature brought about in regards to that period.
I. Historical Background
The Perpetrator.The Great Deception.The African Holocaust.The Campaign for Reforms.The Reluctant Transfer of a Country.
The Second Monarch of Belgium (1865-1909).Ambitious to have a colony.Greedy for glory and wealth.Good at public relations.One of the worst criminals in human history
King Leopold II (1835-1909)
The Great Deception
Brussels Geographical Conference of 1876.International African Association; International Congo Association.Henry Morton Stanley.Berlin Conference for Africa 1884-85.Congo Free State 1885.
H. M. Stanley
Berlin Conference for Africa
The Scramble for Africa (1885-1914)
L'Etat Indpendant du Congo Flag of the Congo Free State
The African Holocaust1. First few years were difficult and not profitable for Leopold. The main export was ivory.2. The invention of the pneumatic tire in Ireland by John Dunlop in 1890 changed everything.3. The rubber boom in the West and the rubber terror in the Congo.4. Forced labor enforced by the Force Publique.5. Kidnapping, Murders, Rape, and Mutilations.
Kidnappings and Rape
Reign of Horror and Devastation Starvation Burnt Villages
NSALA meets Alice S. Harris
Nsala of Wala Alice S. Harris
Congo Reform Association(1904-1913) Edmund D. Morel Roger Casement
The King is Exposed Expert Opinion Leopold: Silly fuss theyre making about these so-called atrocities in my Congo property. Abdul: Only talk, my dear boy. They wont do anything. They never touched me.
The Great Deceiver Humanitarian Pretext What Leopold II promised to do in the Congo:
1. Civilization.2. Science.3. Christianity.4. Eradication of the Arabic slave trade.5. Education.6. Medical advances.
Destructive ImpactWhat Leopold II actually did to the Congo.
1. Enslavement of the local population.2. Plunder of tons of ivory, rubber, and other raw materials.3. Spread of diseases.4. Starvation and devastation.5. Rape, murder, and mutilation.6. Destruction of over 10 million innocent African lives.
The End of Leopolds Terror1. Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, gives speeches against the Congo regime and refuses to grant permission of the King to visit the USA in 1906.2. Voices in Great Britain call for a naval blockade of the Congo River in order to stop the butchery. 3. In 1908 Belgium annexes Congo as a colony to the state and changed its name to Belgian Congo.4. Leopold II, exposed as a mass criminal, dies a year later, but abuses continue in the Congo. 5. Belgium continues to rob, plunder, and exploit Congo for another 52 years.6. Patrice Lumumba, a socialist and the leader of Congolese independence, is assassinated by Belgium in 1961. Teddy Roosevelt
II. Great Works of LiteratureSix classics writings from various genre: Open Letter G. W. WilliamsNovella Joseph ConradSoliloquy Mark TwainNon-fiction expose A. Conan DoylePoetry N. Vachel LindsayPopular history Adam Hochschild
George Washington Williams(1849-1891)American Civil War veteran Military Colonel.Baptist Minister.Lawyer. Politician.Historian.Journalist and Editor.Author of The History of the Negro Race in America 16191880, the first history book on African Americans.
An Open Letter to the Belgian King and a Report to the American President
Genre: An open letter intended to be read by a wide audience, or written for an individual, but for the purpose of wide distribution. It is normally intended to express a public stance on issues, often critical, and to cause public debate.
This was the first public document expressing discontent about the harsh conditions of Leopolds regime. G.W. Williams had witnessed those personally on a visit to the Congo in 1890. As a result he published An Open Letter to His Serene Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians and Sovereign of the Independent State of Congo and also A Report Upon the Congo-State and Country to the President of the Republic of the United States.
Unfortunately, the author did not live long enough to continue the historic fight for justice he had begun, but on his way back from Africa, died in England from tuberculosis and pleurisy in 1891.
An Open Letter to His Serene Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians and Sovereign of the Independent State of CongoAll the crimes perpetrated in the Congo have been done in your name, and you must answer at the bar of Public Sentiment for the misgovernment of a people, whose lives and fortunes were entrusted you by the august Conference of Berlin, 1884-1885. I now appeal to the Powers, which committed this infant State to your Majestys charge, and to the great States which gave it international being; and whose majestic law you have scorned and trampled upon, to call and create an international Commission to investigate the charges herein preferred in the name of Humanity, Commerce, Constitutional Government and Christian Civilisation.
Born to Polish Parents in Ukraine.His father was a writer, translator, and activist for Polands independence from Russia.Moved to England in his twenties to work as a seaman on British ships. His travels inspired his writing career.Advocate on social and political issues.
Heart of Darkness (1899)
Genre: A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short storybut shorter than a novel.
1. Having served as a captain of a steam ship in the Congo, J. Conrad, witnessed the horrors of the regime of the Belgian King and his sadistic agents.
2. In his most famous work Heart of Darkness Conrad skillfully explores the beliefs held on the constitution of barbarianism versus civilization. He lifts up racism as the main justification for colonialism and the new European imperialism in Africa.
Heart of Darkness
Marlow offers this comment as a preface to his main tale.
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. (p. 7)
Marlow says the following in regard to Mr. Kurtz's background.
All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, and by and by I learned that most appropriately the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report for its future guidance. (p.49)
Mark Twain(1835-1910)Born in Florida, Missouri, USA. Samuel Clemens (real name). Reporter, humorist, traveler, lecturer, and public speaker.Called the father of American literature.Author of several classic works such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Civil Rights activist.
King Leopolds Soliloquy: A Defense of His Congo Rule (1905)
Genre: A soliloquy (from Latin solo "to oneself" + loquor "I talk") is a device often used in drama when a character speaks to himself or herself, relating thoughts and feelings, thereby also sharing them with the audience. Other characters, however, are not aware of what is being said, which makes it distinct from a monologue.
In this work of political satire Leopold II discusses his actions in the Congo and speaks in his own defense. In this classis piece of literature the king madly raves about the good he has done for the Congo, and denies the international criticism about his immense personal profits and terrible crimes there.
King Leopolds Soliloquy
On the media: In these twenty years I have spent millions to keep the press of the two hemispheres quiet, and still these leaks keep on occurring. I have spent other millions on religion and art, and what do I get for it? Nothing. Not a compliment. These generosities are studiedly ignored, in print.
On the camera: The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I couldnt bribe.
On Americans: Oh, well, let them blackguard me if they like; it is a deep satisfaction to me to remember that I was a shade too smart for that nation that thinks itself so smart. Yes, I certainly did bunco a Yankee as those people phrase it. Pirate flag? Let them call it soo perhaps it is. All the same, they were the first to salute it.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)Born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Irish parents.Physician by education, but his medical career was unsuccessful.Most noted for his fictional stories about the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.Knighted in 1902 by King Edward VII.
The Crime of the Congo (1909)Definition: Non-fiction EXPOS (French "revealed"): A journalistic or literary revelation or exposure especially of something discreditable or scandalous.
"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's new book, 'The Crime of the Congo,' is the most powerful indictment yet launched against the Belgian rulers of this bloodstained colony. After reviewing the early history of the Congo Free State Sir Arthur quotes the testimony of many unimpeachable witnesses regarding the brutalities of the 'rubber system' and the coldblooded mutilation and massacre of natives during the past fifteen years."- Daily Express.
The Crime of the CongoWe have all failed at times. But never has there been failure so hopeless, so shocking, bearing such consequences to the world, such degradation to the good name of Christianity and civilization as the failure of the Belgians in the Congo.
The curse of blood and the scorn of every honest man rest upon them already. Would that they were within the reach of human justice also! They have been guilty of the sack of a country, the spoliation of a nation, the greatest crime in all history, the greater for having been carried out under an odious pretence of philanthropy. Surely somehow, somewhere, they will have their reward!
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)
Born in Springfield, Illinois, USA.Famous American poet and performance artist. Father of the modern genre of singing poetry, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted.Advocate for African Americans.Congo was his most famous poem.
The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race (1913)
Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host. Hear how the demons chuckle and yell Cutting his hands off, down in Hell. Listen to the creepy proclamation,Blown through the lairs of the forest-nation, Blown past the white-ants' hill of clay, Blown past the marsh where the butterflies play!
Adam Hochschild (1942)American writer, journalist, lecturer and commentator. Graduate of Harvard University with a BA in History and Literature.Civil Rights activist.New York Times best-selling author.Recipient of numerous awards for writing.Presently lecturer at University of California, Berkeley.
King Leopolds Ghost (1998)
Genre : Popular history is a broad genre of historiography that takes a popular approach, aims at a wide readership, and usually emphasizes narrative, personality and vivid detail over academic scholarly analysis.
The book was rejected by nine publishers, but then unexpectedly became an international best-seller and winner of prestigious awards.
Hochschild vividly describes the tyranny of Leopold II in the Congo, and lifts up the problem of the present-day historical denial by Belgium of that African Holocaust that took place under the Free States barbaric rule.
Parc du CinquantenaireBrussels, Belgium
Royal Museum for Central AfricaTervuren, Belgium
King Leopolds Ghost: The Great Forgetting (Chapter 19) In none of the museums galleries is there the slightest hint that millions of Congolese met unnatural deaths. There is no hint of these deaths anywhere in Brussels. The Rue Brederode where part of the Congo administration and the most important Congo companies once had headquarters, still run past the back of the Royal Palace. But today the spot where Joseph Conrad had his job interview is occupied by a government tax-collection office. On another side of the palace, a larger-than-life statue of Leopold on horseback stares metalically out at a freeway underpass. And yet the blood spilled in the Congo, the stolen land, the severed hands, the shattered families, and orphaned children, underlie much that meets the eye.
Other Famous Writers Against the Infamous King
Booker T. Washington
Leopold II of the Belgians William Sheppard Anatole France
ConclusionExtraordinary times require extraordinary persons who are willing to go against the current and raise their voice for truth. While Leopold II has been virtually forgotten from historical memory, mostly everyone knows the names of M. Twain, A. C. Doyle, B. T. Washington, and Anatole France!Besides learning history and being introduced to some classic pieces of English and American literature today, what can we say are the moral lessons we gather from these great authors of the past?
True love. Show care and compassion for those who suffer injustice!Bravery. Dont be afraid to be different and take a stand for truth!Humility. Respect all human beings regardless of their race or background!Persistence. Dont give up when you are sure of the rightness of your cause!Values. The end does not justify the means: virtue is more important than profit! It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness! Confucius