Directions: Read the following 5 excerpts from the book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, after each section of reading answer the questions that follow. Excerpt 1:
“Here is how the Portuguese arrival was recounted by Mukunzo Kioko, a twentieth-century oral historian…
Our fathers were living comfortably… They had cattle and crops; they had salt marshes and banana trees. Suddenly they saw a big boat rising out of the great ocean. This boat had wings all of white, sparkling like knives. White men came out of the water and spoke words which no one understood. Our ancestors took fright; they said that these vumbi, spirits returned from the dead. They pushed them back into the ocean with volleys of arrows. But the vumbi spat fire with a noise of thunder. Many men were killed. Our ancestors fled. From that time to our days now, the whites have brought us nothing but wars and miseries.”
(Hochschild, pg 29)
What are the lives of the Africans like before the arrival of Europeans?
Why were the Europeans able to successfully fight against the Africans?
How did the arrival of Europeans change the societies of Africa?
Excerpt 2: “As he (King Leopold of Belgium) prepared to develop his enormous colony, he found a number of tools at his disposal that had not been available to empire builders of earlier times. The tools were crucial, for they would soon allow for a few thousand white men working for the king to dominate some twenty million Africans. To begin with, there was weaponry. The primitive muzzle loaders (guns) which were the best arms that most Congolese could obtain were little better than the muskets of George Washington’s army… Europeans could rely on breech-loading rifles…These shot much farther and more accurately… An even more decisive advantage quickly followed: the repeating rifle, which could fire a dozen shots without being reloaded. Soon After came the machine gun. Another tool that allowed Europeans to seize virtually all of tropical Africa in the two decades following the Berlin Conference was medical knowledge. Midcentury explorers had blamed malaria (a disease carried by mosquitos in Africa) on everything from “marshy exhalations” to sleeping in the moonlight, but, whatever its cause, they learned that quinine was a useful defense. Around the turn of the century (1900) malaria…became better understood… and the awesomely high death rates for Europeans in the African tropics began to drop.”
How do you think better weapons helped Europeans conquer and control much of Africa?
What effect did the discovery of quinine have on European exploration in Africa?
Citing evidence from the text, how did technology allow for Europeans to dominate the people of Africa?
Excerpt 3: The following excerpt comes from a report made by George Washington Williams, an African-American who went to the Belgian Congo to shed light on the human rights violations that were occurring.
Leopold’s (King of Belgium) claim that his new state was providing wise government and public services was a fraud. There were no schools and no hospitals except for a few sheds “not fit to be occupied by a horse.” Virtually none of the colony’s officials knew any African language.
White trades and state officials were kidnapping African women and using them as concubines. (Prostitutes)
White officers were shooting villages, sometimes to capture their women, sometimes to intimidate survivors into working as forced laborers, and sometimes for sport. “Two Belgian Army officers saw, from the deck of their steamer, a native in a canoe some distance away… The officers made a wager of £5 that they could hit the native with their rifles. Three shots were fired and the native fell dead, pierced through the head.
Instead of Leopold’s being the noble antislavery crusader he portrayed himself as, “Your Majesty’s Government is engaged in the slave trade… It buys and sells and steals slaves. You Majesty’s government gives £3 per head for able-bodied slaves for military service.
(Hochschild, pg. 180-181)
What are three ways in which George Washington Williams says that the Belgians are mistreating Africans in the Congo?
How does excerpt 3 show that Belgian soldiers considered Africans to be less than human?
Does the following quote provide a good piece of evidence to support the claim; Europeans cared little for the culture of the Africans there were controlling? Why do you say that?
“Virtually none of the colony’s officials knew any African language. “
The following excerpt is rare in that in comes from the voice of an African woman named Ilanga in the Congo. It tells the story of her forced march, and the forced march of her fellow villagers after being taken captive by Belgian soldiers.
“We then set off marching very quickly. My sister Katinga had her baby in her arms, and was not compelled to carry a basket; but my husband Oleka was made to carry a goat. We marched until the afternoon, when we camped near a stream, where we were glad to drink, for we were much athirst. We had nothing to eat, for the soldiers would give us nothing…So it continued each day until the fifth day, when the soldiers took my sister’s baby and threw it in the grass, leaving it to die, and made her carry some cooking pots which they found in the deserted village. On the sixth day we became very weak from lack of food and from constant marching and sleeping in the damp grass, and my husband, who marched behind us with the goat, could not stand up longer, and so he sat down beside the path and refused to walk more. The soldiers beat him, but still he refused to move. Then one of them struck him on the head with the end of his gun, and he fell upon the ground. One of the soldiers caught the goat, while two or three others stuck the long knives they put in the ends of their guns into my husband. I saw the blood spurt out, and then saw him no more… Many of the young men were killed in the same way, and many babies thrown into the grass to die…”
What happened to Ilanga’s sisters baby?
What happened to Ilanga’s husband?
Provide evidence for the claim that; “Belgian soldiers cared little for Africans, they were needed more as pack animals to carry supplies.”
Summarize the way in which Belgian soldiers treated people in Africa?
“ A Catholic priest who recorded oral histories half a century later quotes a man, Tswambe, speaking of a particularly hated state official who terrorizes a district (of the Congo):
All the blacks saw this man as the Devil of the Equator… From all the bodies killed in the field, you had to cut off the hands. He wanted to see the number of hands cut off by each soldier, who had to bring them in baskets… A village which refused to provide rubber would be completely swept clean. As a young man I saw [a soldier], then guarding the village of Boyeka, take a big net, put ten arrested natives in it, attach big stones to the net, and make it tumble into the river… Rubber caused these torments; that’s why we not longer want to hear its name spoken. Soldiers made young men kill or rape their own mothers and sisters.”
(Hochschild, pg 267)
How did Belgian soldiers keep count of the Africans that they killed?
What do you think is meant by the phrase “completely swept clean” in the following sentence: “A village which refused to provide rubber would be completely swept clean.”?
An African in the Congo told the priest that “rubber caused these torments”, how do you think the lives of Africans in the Congo might have been different if there was no need for rubber?
Period: Global Studies
On King Leopold’s Ghost
Rudyard Kipling’s poem The White Man’s Burden speaks of imperialism as the benevolent (helpful) duty of white men to help dark skinned people around the world become civilized.
One excerpt from the poem reads as follows…
“Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;”
According to Kipling, how are white people helping the dark skinned people?
Now that you have read excerpts from King Leopold’s Ghost, provide three pieces of evidence that disproves Kipling’s’ thesis. Provide a quote, explain how that quote disproves Kipling, and provide a page number.
Summary Question: In two complete and well-written paragraphs answer the following questions.
What was European Imperialism like for the people of the Congo during Belgian rule?
Where Europeans in the Congo to help the people of Africa?
Each question should be answered in a CSET providing evidence from the readings.
Each piece of evidence should contain an in text citation.