Please have paper out to take notes on today’s lecture.



for Poisonwood


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

Congo River

• Kinshasa

• Kisangani

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

African interior


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

Free State

 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.

The colony

“belonged” to

Leopold personally.

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).

The Congo Free State


“The Profit Imperative”

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)

 Leah

 Adah

 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

Personal growth


 These passages should be highlighted or underlined and tabbed