Congo Free State  

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"The kodak has been a sore calamity to us. The most powerful enemy indeed. In the early years we had no trouble getting the press to “expose” the tales of mutilations as slanders, lies, inventions . . . and by the press’s help we got the Christian nations everywhere to turn an irritated and unbelieving ear to these tales. . . . Then all of a sudden came the crash! That is to say, the incorruptible kodak ... The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I could not bribe." --King Leopold's Soliloquy

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Congo Free State was a large area in Central Africa that was privately controlled by Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold was able to procure the region by convincing the European community that he was involved in humanitarian and philanthropic work; through the use of several smokescreen organizations he was able to lay claim to most of the Congo Basin. Leopold eventually allowed the concept of a philanthropic International Association of the Congo involved in the Congo to end. On May 29, 1885, the king named his new colony the Congo Free State. The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo and existed from 1885 to 1908.

Leopold's reign in the Congo eventually earned infamy due to the increasing mistreatment of the local peoples. Leopold extracted ivory, rubber, and minerals in the upper Congo basin for sale on the world market, even though his nominal purpose in the region was to uplift the local people and develop the area. Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became one of the greatest international scandals of the early 20th century. The report of the British Consul Roger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials who had been responsible for killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1903.

The loss of life and atrocities inspired literature such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and raised an international outcry. Excess deaths in this period are believed to number up to 10 million.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Congo Free State" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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