Adam Hochschild’s award winning, heart haunting account of the brutal plunder of the Congo by Leopold II of Belgium presents a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a royal figure as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of Shakespeare’s great villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave, committed handful of idealists, missionaries, travelers, diplomats, and African villagers who found themselves witnesses to and, in too many instances, victims of a holocaust.
In the late 1890s, Edmund Dene Morel, a young British shipping company agent, noticed something strange about the cargoes of his company’s ships as they arrived from and departed for the Congo, Leopold II’s vast new African colony. Incoming ships were crammed with valuable ivory and rubber. Outbound ships carried little more than soldiers and firearms. Correctly concluding that only slave labor on a vast scale could account for these cargoes, Morel resigned from his company and almost single-handedly made Leopold’s slave labor regime the premier human rights story in the world. Thousands of people packed hundreds of meetings throughout the United States and Europe to learn about Congo atrocities. Two courageous black Americans—George Washington Williams and William Sheppard—risked much to bring evidence to the outside world. Roger Casement, later hanged by Britain as a traitor, conducted an eyeopening investigation of the Congo River stations. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming over all was Leopold II, King of the Belgians, sole owner of the only private colony in the world.
Also, at our book discussion on the 13th, one of our book group members (and a museum docent), Vicki H., will bring a PowerPoint presentation put together by the Birmingham Museum of Art on art and artifacts donated to the Museum from the Congo and surrounding areas. Vicki's presentation is very good, so if you are interested in this book, or African art & culture, please join us!
The Emmet O'Neal Library, in the heart of Mountain Brook, Alabama, is one of our community's gems. In today's fast-paced world, we offer an amazing variety of resources and programs for people of all ages. In our award-winning library, you can enjoy the newest books, study an art collection online, read of ancient civilizations, learn a new language, research the latest business trends, or travel to distant worlds of the imagination.