Nzinga Mbemba Affonso was the African king who gained the throne of the Kingdom of Kongo in 1506 when the Portuguese were beginning to step up their slave trade and colonization of the Congo. He became Christian, learned Portuguese, and wrote a number of letters to the Portuguese king and to the Pope complaining about the kidnapping of his people for slaves.
Count Pierre Savorgnan Da Brazza
Da Brazza was a French explorer and naval officer whom Henry Morton Stanley considered a rival because he explored the land north of the Congo River. He was able to get a chief to sign over that land to France, so that French Equatorial Africa was just to the north of Leopold’s Congo, on the other side of the Congo River.
Sir Richard Burton
Sir Richard Burton was an English explorer who, with John Speke discovered Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria in central Africa. Burton was critical of Stanley’s violent methods.
Edgar Canisius was an American agent in the Congo who spoke Swahili and recorded the story of a woman named Ilanga, sole survivor of a family kidnapped from their village and enslaved as porters in the Congo. Canisius served as a counterguerilla commander for the rubber companies and wrote a book in 1903 detailing the atrocities he and his men had committed in killing natives and burning their villages. This testimony was used by Morel in his campaign against Leopold.
Diogo C‚o was the Portuguese naval captain who discovered the mouth of the Congo River on the western shore of Africa in 1482. This was the beginning of Portuguese slave trade in the Congo.
Empress Carlota was Leopold’s sister, Charlotte, who married Archduke Maximilian of Austria-Hungary. In 1864 Napoleon III of France installed the pair as Emperor and Empress of Mexico. The Mexicans rebelled, killing Maximilian. Carlota returned to Brussels where she went mad and was locked up by Leopold.
Caroline was a young sixteen-year-old French prostitute who became Leopold’s mistress when he was 65. She was unpopular with the Belgians, but Leopold married her on his deathbed to legitimize her and their two sons and to disinherit his daughters.
Roger Casement, an Irishman, was the British consul in the Congo who was ordered by the British government to go into the Congo interior and investigate the charges against Leopold’s administration. He went to the rubber-producing areas, documenting the abuses. He was angry at what he saw and wrote the report in London, where he met E. D. Morel and with him formed the Congo Reform Association. Casement’s report was extremely important in verifying the earlier reports, and it was difficult for Leopold to fight an official British document. Casement was knighted but later was arrested for his work for Irish freedom. He tried to buy arms for the Easter uprising in Ireland and was put in prison, eventually being executed for treason.
Princess Clementine was the youngest daughter of King Leopold II of Belgium. She was in love with Prince Victor Napoleon of France, but Leopold would not consent to the marriage. She served as Leopold’s palace hostess and married the French prince after her father died.
Joseph Conrad was a riverboat captain on the Congo River in 1890, witnessing the atrocities of Leopold’s Congo and writing about them in his famous short novel, Heart of Darkness (1899).
Rev. John and Alice Seeley Harris
Rev. John and Alice Seeley Harris were Baptist missionaries in the Congo. When they returned to England in 1906 they worked fulltime with Edmund Morel and his Congo Reform Associaton to stop Leopold’s cruelty in the Congo. Alice’s photographs of the victims became an important slideshow at all the rallies and a tool of confirmation of the atrocities.
King Leopold II
King Leopold II of Belgium was a German prince related to Queen Victoria. When he took the throne as a young man, he began researching the possibility of getting a colony to finance his affairs, as other European nations had done. He kept his ambition secret from his people and government because they were not favorably disposed to such an expensive hobby. After he settled on the Congo area of Africa as a place unclaimed, he systematically went after it, and through a number of tricky moves, lies, and deceit, became the ruler of the Congo Free State. He pretended he had philanthropic motives to go into the Congo, to develop it, and open it up to Western civilization. He wanted to protect the natives from the Arab slavers, he said, and also bring in scientific exploration of the area. Using dummy committees, he formed a trade monopoly, all the while saying he was for free trade. He knew the way to make money on his investment was to use forced labor, and this he did for twenty years, in both ivory and rubber production. Besides the kidnapping and mass murder of approximately ten million Congolese (half the population), he stole the land and wealth of the Congo for his personal use. After the continued protests of his methods by humanitarian groups, he sold and signed over the Congo Free State to the Belgium government in 1908, making the area into the Belgian Congo. He died shortly afterwards.
David Livingstone was an English physician, missionary, and explorer who searched for the source of the Nile in Africa. He found Victoria Falls and was the first white man to cross the continent from coast to coast. When he became lost in the 1860s, New York Herald publisher, James Gordon Bennett, sent Henry Morton Stanley to find him to get stories for his newspaper. In 1872 Stanley found Livingstone at Lake Tanganyika and thus became famous.
Princess Louise was the oldest daughter of King Leopold. Leopold married her to an older Austro-Hungarian prince when she was seventeen. She fled the marriage by having an adulterous affair with a cavalry officer. The officer was imprisoned for fighting a duel with her husband, and Louise chose to go to an insane asylum rather than go back to her husband.
Kandolo was a black sergeant in the Force Publique who led a mutiny against the commander, Mathieu Pelzer, a bully, killing him and attacking other Force Publique posts in a rebellion in the Kasai region.
Mary Kingsley was an English author who influenced E. D. Morel with her 1897 book, Travels in West Africa. She saw the Africans as intelligent human beings, not savages, and criticized colonialism in Africa.
Jules Marchal is the Belgian diplomat who began research on King Leopold’s Congo in the 1970s. He wrote under a pseudonym at first because the topic was touchy for Belgians. Writing first in Dutch and then in French, his four-volume history is considered definitive and was a major source for Adam Hochshild’s book.
Queen Marie-Henriette was a Hapsburg archduchess and the Belgian queen of Leopold. She married him at the age of sixteen, and the two hated each other their whole lives. Her only interest was horses. When their young son died in an accident, and she could only produce daughters, he stopped speaking to her.
Edmund Dene Morel
Edmund Dene Morel was the young English shipping clerk for the Elder Dempster Company in Liverpool, who discovered that King Leopold was using forced labor in the Congo. Leopold was a major customer of the shipping line, so Morel’s discovery was not welcomed by Elder Dempster, though what Leopold was doing was illegal. Elder Dempster tried to buy off Morel to keep him quiet, but instead, he devoted his life to exposing Leopold’s operations through his Congo Reform Association and his newspaper, the West African Mail. He became a famous public figure and speaker gathering thousands of supporters, including the rich and famous. Later in life, he was imprisoned for his anti-war campaign during World War I. After the war, he was elected to the House of Commons on the Labour ticket, defeating Winston Churchill.
Senator John Tyler Morgan
Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama helped to pass a resolution in the U.S. Congress recognizing Leopold as the legitimate ruler of the Congo, so there would be, as he was told, a place to send black Americans back to Africa.
Mulume Niama was chief of the Sanga people in Katanga, southern Congo. He led a rebellion against Leopold’s forces, refusing to surrender, but instead, died with all his men.
Nzansu was a chief who led an uprising against the cruel agent, Eugene Rommel, for kidnapping thousands of Africans to be used as forced labor for porters. He killed Rommel but spared a Swedish missionary who had been good to the Africans.
Emin Pasha (a German Jew named Eduard Schnitzer) was governor of the Sudan when he became surrounded by a Muslim rebellion. Henry Morton Stanley was sent on the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition to rescue him in 1887. Leopold used the incident to get Stanley to explore and open up the Congo. He wanted to annex the Sudan as well. Emin Pasha declined and escaped to a German settlement.
LÈon Rom was a Belgian Congo agent and organizer of the Force Publique, Leopold’s army, whom Joseph Conrad probably met in 1890 and may be the model for Mr. Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Rom wrote a manual on how to use hostages for the rubber trade and displayed the heads of Africans on his garden fence.
EugËne Rommel was a hated Belgian state agent who captured fifty thousand natives a year as porters. A local chief, Nzansu, led an uprising and killed him.
General Henry Shelton Sanford
General Henry Shelton Sanford had been an American diplomat in Brussels and became a friend of Leopold’s. Leopold told him lies and used him to lobby in Washington and negotiate with the Americans to recognize Leopold’s right to rule the Congo. Sanford felt betrayed when he found out that Leopold was not supporting free trade and American settlement in the Congo.
Hezekiah Andrew Shanu
Hezekiah Andrew Shanu was a black schoolteacher from Nigeria, who began working for Leopold’s state to recruit Nigerian soldiers for the Force Publique. Shanu became a respected businessman in Boma, but having a change of heart, supplied Casement and Morel with damaging documents about Leopold’s regime. He was harassed by the authorities and committed suicide.
Princess Stephanie was the middle daughter of King Leopold. She was betrothed to Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria-Hungary when she was sixteen. He was a morphine addict and alcoholic and committed suicide with his mistress.
Rev. William Sheppard
Rev. William Sheppard was a black Presbyterian minister in Montgomery and Atlanta who went to the Congo as a missionary in 1890. He was a charismatic man, popular with the Kuba people whose language he learned and whose culture he recorded for posterity. When they were terrorized by Leopold’s militia into becoming rubber workers, he helped them and wrote articles about the severed hands that were published around the world. Congo state officials filed a libel suit against Sheppard, and he went to prison rather than pay a fine. In a much publicized trial, he was acquitted and became a hero for speaking out.
E. V. Sjˆblom
E. V. Sjˆblom was a Swedish Baptist missionary in the Congo and a critic of Leopold’s. He wrote a detailed description of the rubber terror in the Swedish press in 1896 and went to London to speak at gatherings.
Sir Henry Morton Stanley (John Rowlands)
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, famous African explorer, was an illegitimate child (John Rowlands) of a Welsh housemaid. He was raised in a workhouse, then went to America and fought on both sides of the Civil War. As a journalist, he covered the American Indian Wars and then became a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald, whose editor sponsored him to search for the explorer, David Livingstone. Stanley went to Africa and found Livingstone in 1872 and became famous writing about the expedition. He also found the source of the Congo River and mapped it. King Leopold employed Stanley to explore the Congo area and help him to develop it through a railway and steamboats to open it up to trade. Stanley marched up and down the Congo River getting tribal chiefs to sign over their land to King Leopold and helped to build a chain of trading stations on the river. Stanley’s sadistic treatment of the native porters was criticized; he was an obvious racist, but at the same time he was a hero to the western world for his bold explorations and his account of them in books. He wrote a book on the founding of the Congo Free State that helped Leopold to legitimize his rule of the Congo with foreign governments. After he retired as an explorer, he became rich as a speaker and writer. He married a high-society artist, Dorothy Tennant, was knighted and elected to Parliament.
Charles Stoke was an Irish ivory agent in the Congo who married an African woman and had his own ivory trade. Since he was competing with Leopold’s monopoly, he was hanged by the Force Publique. This caused a scandal in England against Leopold.
Colonel Maximilien Strauch
Colonel Maximilien Strauch, one of Leopold’s henchmen, was the president of the secretive Committee for Studies of the Upper Congo, a group of businessmen who had shares in the Congo, with Leopold holding a large block by proxy.
Tippu Tip was a Zanzibar-based Muslim slaver who made a fortune in ivory and slaves. In 1887, Leopold, who had sworn he was in the Congo to protect the Africans from such slavers, asked Tippu Tip to be governor of the eastern Congo. He bought thousands of Tippu Tip’s slaves, which he called “liberated men,” to serve in the Force Publique for a contract of seven years.
Captain James K. Tuckey
Captain James K. Tuckey was an English explorer who tried to find the source of the Congo in 1816. Half of the expedition and Tuckey himself died without finding it.
Mark Twain, famous American author, became a supporter of the anti-Leopold campaign and wrote a pamphlet on it in 1905, King Leopold’s Soliloquy, an imaginary monologue by Leopold.
Queen Victoria of England, and Empress of the British Empire, was a cousin of Belgian King Leopold. He always held Britain as the model for empire and tried to emulate Victoria’s success.
George Washington Williams
George Washington Williams was an African American who had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He studied law, became a Baptist minister in Boston and Cincinnati, started a black newspaper in Washington D. C., the Commoner, and wrote History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880, (1882-3). A bold leader, he testified before Congress on behalf of black veterans and deciding to see if the Congo was a place where American blacks could find opportunity, met Leopold in Brussels, and then traveled to the Congo. In 1890 he wrote the first major expose of Leopold’s forced labor in his Open Letter to the King. It was reprinted all over the world and set the wheel of opposition to Leopold in motion.