Timeline

1874 Henry Morton Stanley, British journalist, crossed Africa from the east to the west across the Congo River basin on a 999-day journey sponsored by London’s Daily Telegraph.

1876 14 September, Henry Morton Stanley’s expedition left Rwanda.

1876 17 October, Henry Morton Stanley’s expedition reached the Lualaba River.

1877 Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh-born American explorer, emerged from the forests of Africa near the mouth of the Congo River. He had traced the river to its source. In 1878 he authored Through the Dark Continent.

1880s The revival of the Catholic missionary effort in the Congo.

1880-1920 The population of Congo was halved due to murder, starvation, exhaustion, exposure, disease, and a lowered birth rate due to the exploitation by King Leopold II

1881 8 May, Henry Morton Stanley signed a contract with a Congo monarch. There would be many more of these contracts signed and would later be a criticism levelled at both Stanley and Leopold, stating that they took advantage of the Congolese monarchs and purchased large swathes of land for very little cost, exploiting their ignorance.

1883 Stanleyville (later Kisangani), Congo, was founded by Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the Anglo-American journalist who tracked down the missionary David Livingstone in Africa.

1884 26 February, Leopold II of Belgium signed in Congo a British and Portuguese treaty.

1884 Roger Casement of Ulster joined an expedition up the Congo River led by Henry Morton Stanley. After 20 years in Africa he became the leading figure in a campaign to denounce the abuses committed by the Congo’s Belgian colonisers.

1885 26 February, The Congress of Berlin gave Congo to Belgium.

1885 2 May, The Congo Free State was established by King Leopold II of Belgium.

1885 A treaty signed at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 called for the humane treatment of Africans.

1887 The inflatable bicycle tire was invented and spawned, along with the car tire, a worldwide rubber boom.

1890 William Sheppard (b.1865 in Virginia) left the US for missionary work in Congo.

c1890-1899 In the late 19th century Belgium established the Tervuren Royal Museum for Central Africa. It was a result of the country’s colonial venture in the Belgian Congo, later Zaire, later Democratic Republic of Congo. The museum was founded as a showcase for business opportunities on the Congo.

1891 31 July, Great Britain declared territories in Southern Africa up to the Congo to be within their sphere of influence.

c1898 Edmund Dene Morel, a London employee of the shipping line Elder Dempster, came to realise that a wealth of rubber and ivory cargo was arriving from Congo in exchange for military officers, firearms and ammunition. He deduced that forced labour was being used by King Leopold II of Belgium to extract native wealth.

1901 Edmund Dene Morel quit his London shipping line job and began a full time campaign to expose the atrocities in the Congo under Leopold II. He started his own publication, The West African Mail, an illustrated weekly journal in 1903 as a forum on West and Central African Questions.

1903 May, In Britain the House of Commons passed a resolution urging that Congo natives be governed with humanity. Also the British consul in the Congo, Roger Casement, was asked to travel to the interior and report on conditions there.

1903 29 June, The British government officially protested Belgian atrocities in the Congo. Missionaries, such as William Sheppard of Virginia, had provided information that soldiers of Leopold’s private army severed the right hand of villagers they had killed in order to account for their used bullets. Leopold’s 19,000 man private army held hostage the wives of workers to force men to work.

1904 The Congo Reform Association was born in England following the return of Roger Casement from the Congo and his meeting with Edmund Morel.

1904 Edmund Morel journeyed to the US and encouraged the formation of an American Congo Reform Association. Its first president was Dr. G. Stanley Hall, president of Clark University.

1905 Mark Twain wrote his pamphlet King Leopold’s Soliloquy in support of reform in the Congo. US Secretary of State Elihu Root was pressured to take action on the Congo.

1906 Edmund Morel wrote Red Rubber: the Story of the Rubber Slave Trade Flourishing on the Congo in the year of Grace 1906.

1908 King Leopold II (d.1909) turned the Congo over to Belgium for a large sum of money. It was later estimated that the population of Congo dropped by approximately 10 million people during the period of Leopold’s rule and its immediate aftermath.*

1924 Edmund Dene Morel, Congo activist, was elected to the British Parliament. He soon died of a heart attack at age 51.

* Dean Pavlakis, adjunct professor at Canisius College, Buffalo, has stated that:

There is some debate over whether the Congo catastrophe qualifies as genocide, because the Congo state did not act with the intent of eliminating one or more ethnic groups. However, the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide includes deliberate killings, for whatever motive, of members of an ethnic group with the intent to destroy them as such, “in whole or in part.” This suggests that the Congo Free State, in deciding to wipe out particular ethnic groups that resisted its inhuman practices, did indeed practice genocide.