"each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain"

Leopold’s Congo Free State was effectively a fully-fledged slave state. As part of the concessionary land treaties Stanley made on his behalf with the various African chieftains, a clause required native inhabitants of the Congo ‘to assist by labour or otherwise, any works, improvements or expeditions which the said Association shall cause to be carried out in any part of these territories…’ It is a sign of Leopold’s cynicism that when questioned about the existence of slavery in his colony (one of the stated aims of which had been to put an end to the Arab slave trade in Africa), he justified it as work carried out in lieu of taxes, claiming it was even of benefit to Africans; to an American reporter, Leopold declared, ‘In dealing with a race composed of cannibals for thousands of years it is necessary to use methods which will best shake their idleness and make them realize the sanctity of work.'


'Prisoners' in chains at Matadi (c. 1906)
Public Domain'Prisoners' in chains at Matadi (c. 1906) - Credit: Richard Harding Davis
Congolese slaves on a Belgian rubber plantation
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCongolese slaves on a Belgian rubber plantation - Credit: www.themanyfacesofspaces.com