In the 1870s,
the Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley navigated the Congo
river under the sponsorship of King Leopold of Belgium.
he stopped, he made treaties with the African chiefs he encountered.
As a result, when Stanley returned to Europe, King Leopold was
able to take possession of an area eighty times the size of
Belgium. Leopold promptly called the area the Belgium Congo
and turned it into his own private goldmine, almost destroying
the Congo in the process.
rule, the Congolese were faced with impossibly high taxes and
forced into slave labor. Agents of the Belgian government would
give each Congolese family a basket to fill with rubber. If
members of the family did not return the basket with the required
number of pounds of rubber, their home would be burned to the
ground. Anyone who rebelled would be put in prison. Meanwhile,
Leopold grew enormously rich, squandering his blood money on
yachts, mansions, and mistresses. To keep the Belgian people
quiet, he also expended enormous sums on public works. Nevertheless,
public opinion against Leopold and his vicious ways grew stronger.
he was forced to give up his stranglehold on the Congo, but
not before millions of people had been imprisoned and thousands