The Democratic Republic of the Congo is located in central Africa. It is sub-Saharan, with the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world and the second largest rainforest in the world.
The Congo’s geography varies greatly by region. The Congo River provides transportation and commerce to large parts of otherwise inaccessible country.
Much of the Congo region was privately colonised in 1885 by Leopold II, King of Belgium. It later became a formal colony of the Belgian state. The Belgian Congo gained its independence in 1960, when Patrice Lumumba was elected Prime Minister. Power was quickly seized by Joseph Mobutu, who in 1971 renamed the country Zaire. It was only renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after his forced departure in 1997.
The old Belgian Congo capital of Leopoldville, founded in 1881 as a trading post by Henry Stanley, was renamed Kinshasa after independence. It lies on the Congo river, directly opposite Brazzaville, the capital of the old French Congo, now the Republic of the Congo.
Kinshasa has some 10 million inhabitants, making it the third largest city in Africa. At the time of the Prices' arrival, however, it was barely more than a large town. By 2020, it is expected to be the biggest French-speaking city in the world.
Kinshasa was made famous in 1974 when it hosted the "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
Bethlehem is located in Barrow County; it is an incorporated town located on Georgia State Highway 11.
Historians believe that the town recieved its name from the Bethlehem Methodist Church estalished in 1796. The street names all derive from the story of the birth of Christ.
This is the home town of the Price family.
In the course of the book, almost four decades pass. (1959 is given in one of the first chapter headings, and the death of Mobutu is indicated in one of the last chapters -- he died in 1997.)
However, much of the book takes place in the early 1960s. In the United States, this spans the end of the Eisenhower presidency as well as the short-lived Kennedy administration. Interestingly, the Price family makes a thematic journey that parallels this history, as America goes from 1950s Cold War paranoia and the civil rights movement, via a time of greater hope with Kennedy's 1961 inauguration, to (with the assassination of Kennedy in November 1963) a descent into the chaos of the Vietnam War and the rebellious youth counterculture movement.
The Congo goes through a dramatic change as well, mirroring the crises in the United States. The colonial Belgian Congo (1908-1960) gives way to a short-lived independent Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the prime minister Patrice Lumumba is assassinated in January 1961, civil war erupts; by the mid-1960s, the country has become a dictatorship under Joseph Mobutu, who renames it Zaire in 1971. When Mobutu is ousted in 1997, the country returns to its original name: the Democratic Republic of the Congo.