Please have paper out to take notes on today’s lecture.
What you should know:
Geography- Including location, natural resources and natural features of the area
Pre-Colonial History- Life before Europe’s takeover
The Congo Free State- What King Leopold and his agents did to make his personal colony profitable
Second largest river basin in the world
Congo River length: 2922 miles
Second largest rainforest in the world
Congo River + tributaries = 7,000 mile highway to the
Congo River Village
The Kingdom of Kongo
According to Portuguese explorers the kingdom was a sophisticated and well run state, an imperial federation
Known for advanced working in copper and iron
Rich in ivory and rubber
Ne Vunda, Kongolese ambassador to the Vatican, 1608
Slavery was part of the culture of the Congo
Originally slaves were captured during warfare, were criminals, or were debtors who could earn back their freedom
Eventually, Muslim slave traders began to sell their slaves to European traders for export to the Americas
Leopold II (1835-1909), king of Belgium from 1865 to 1909, infamous founder of the Congo
Use of river to gain access to ivory- and rubber-rich interior made the Congo a coveted area for colonization.
European nations negotiated and agreed to respect each others’ claims to African territory, Leopold made claim for
The Berlin Conference, 1884-1885
Leopold sent the famous explorer of Africa, Henry
Morton Stanley, to negotiate treaties with the natives.
Native chiefs were offered trinkets or cloth if they would place an X on a document in foreign tongue.
European countries recognized Leopold’s claim to the territory in 1885 because of:
Stanley’s treaties for Leopold
Leopold’s assurances that he would end slavery
Leopold’s promise that the Congo would remain a free trade area.
Colony not profitable in first few years.
Soon the idea of free trade was abandoned; natives could only trade with Leopold’s representatives, with 50% of profits going to Leopold himself.
Profit required cheap labor (gathering rubber is very labor intensive).
Leopold drove slave traders out and portrayed it as humanitarian act.
Reality: he did it to gain control of region.
Leopold paid his ‘agents’ in the Congo a percentage of profits, encouraging them to make the trade more and more profitable.
Also authorized the use of as much force as was deemed necessary.
Agents ‘encouraged’ young men to work by holding their wives and children captive until each man’s quota was met.
Many who resisted were killed on the spot.
Others were beaten with whips made from dried hippo hide with sharp edges.
20 lashes resulted in unconsciousness
100 lashes resulted in death.
Revolt broke out. Leopold sent troops into villages to exterminate the young men.
To make sure bullets weren’t wasted, soldiers were expected to return with the severed right hands of those they killed.
Soldiers who couldn’t meet quotas or spent bullets hunting would cut hands off of living women and children.
Between 1895-1908 an estimated 8-10 million people died due to murder, mistreatment and starvation.
Public pressure eventually forced Leopold to sell the Congo
Free State to the Belgian government. It became The Belgian
Congo in 1908
The Belgian Government ended the worst of the atrocities, but still controlled the fate of the
African natives “For their own good.”
The African natives were never consulted about their future
Colonize: To settle in a new land while remaining subject to the parent nation.
Colonial Literature: Literature written during the time of colonization. Can be either in support of colonization or in protest.
Post-Colonial Literature: Literature written after colonization has “officially” ended.
By Barbara Kingsolver
Nathan and Orleanna Price
Baptist missionaries from Georgia
Rachel (the oldest)
Ruth May (the youngest)
The story is told from each woman’s perspective, with the beginning being an apology from the mother for the fate of her family….but we don’t know what that apology is for until the end………
Commentary on colonization
Represents the Belgian occupation of Africa
Each daughter represents an outcome of colonization
Acceptance (one becomes the other country)
Resistance (one stays in the country but continues with the old ways)
One is completely destroyed
Reformation (secedes from the country and becomes a stronger, better one on their own)
As you read, select one daughter to trace throughout the novel.
Mark passages that:
Illustrate daughter’s identity
Changes in thinking
These passages should be highlighted or underlined and tabbed