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When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’

Posted by on Oct. 2, 2013 at 9:55 AM
  • 13 Replies

When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’

By On 22 December 2010 · 147 Comments

Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?

Most people haven’t heard of him.

But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, executions, torture, and his private army.

Most of us aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of the white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into a capitalist curriculum. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in polite society, but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocides in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s soliloquy; a defense of his Congo rule“, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s an easy read at 49 pages long. Mark Twain is a popular author for American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them (Orwell’s Animal Farm for example serves to re-inforce American anti-socialist propaganda, but Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind, and that is never pointed out). We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but King Leopold’s Soliloquy isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom well. From the point of view of the Education Department, Africans have no history.

When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricaturized Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (which of course now is long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions of people through bombs, sanctions, disease and starvation. Body counts are important. And we don’t count Afghans, Iraqis, or Congolese.

There’s a Wikipedia page called “Genocides in History”. The Congolese Genocide isn’t included. The Congo is mentioned though. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the multinational conflict hunted down Bambenga and ate them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history and talked about for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking whose interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to multi-national incidents where a tiny minority of people were  eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to be entered into the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry and killed 10 to 15 million Conglese people in the process doesn’t make the cut.

You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture don’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.

Leopold was just one part of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. Of course I don’t want to pretend that in the Congo he was the source of all evil. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. It was a system. But that doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide are hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.


Saw this article posted on a FB page I frequent.  I've never heard of this piece of history.  Your thoughts on the article and knowledge or lack of knowledge of this piece of history.

"Religion is nothing more than a political party organized around some guy's moral views."

by on Oct. 2, 2013 at 9:55 AM
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by on Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM
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by Gold Member on Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM
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I have read this before. It was a interesting read.
by Silver Member on Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:32 AM
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I always wondered how these African tribes in North and West African landed up speaking, French/Belgium. Now, I know.
by Platinum Member on Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:38 AM
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I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT THIS! I feel like I've been CHEATED with the education of "world history" that I received in school. The Board of Education actually thinks this just isn't that important to talk about. REALLY?!? Thanks for letting me know, Iconoclast.
by Gold Member on Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:58 AM
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Thankgod for Professor Shango at Pg Community college. My African American studies class was damn near a secret. He would close the door and go completely off the record. We learned about alot of shit we were never supposed to know of. I had never heard of leopold in HS but Shango did a whole lesson on him in college along with Marcus Garvey and a few others. 

The schools teach us what they want us to know. They leave out the most important details. I never learned about African Americans before they were slaves. I never learned in HS the ship routes, real ship conditions, or the holding camps they kept the slaves in before they had them lay flat like planks, head to feet on the ships. They dont want us to know just how bad our history is because then that would make us they down play the struggle. 

by on Oct. 2, 2013 at 11:01 AM
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Interesting read! It is very interesting but nit surprising that this bit of history is omitted from history books. 

by Silver Member on Oct. 2, 2013 at 1:23 PM
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He probably was quietly called a " hero" if it was up to them, they would kill off the black race.
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by Mrs.Bellamy on Oct. 2, 2013 at 4:53 PM
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I read this in my African hummanities class. A very interesting, good read!
by on Oct. 2, 2013 at 5:20 PM
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Wow I've never heard this before very intriguing
by on Oct. 2, 2013 at 6:11 PM
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Read this and other outrageous things during my African studies classes. The first class that I took was taught by a really angry white woman, ironically. She was extremely passionate about what she was teaching, and called out several students who were too passive, they were just in the class trying to get an easy 'A' (you know the type- they think just because they're black they've just absorbed the whole of African culture). The second was taught by a smart, mellow brotha (and he was fione too!), and my third one was taught by a energetic black woman who had a great sense of humor- she stayed crackin jokes.

When white people kill and enslave thousands, its called 'colonization' to make them 'civilized'. How pretentious can you be, to think that everyone needs your brand of 'help' because they live differently than you? The 'white savior' mentality wasn't made up in Hollywood- its real and has been forced on peoples of color for far too long.

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