Written By: Kyleigh Castagna
May 6, 2014
Most people would like to believe that there is good in every person, that people can find their better morals. When Joseph Conrad, the author of "Heart of Darkness," visited the Congo during King Leopold ll rule he “was so horrified by the greed and brutality among white men he saw [there] that his view of human nature was permanently changed.” (Introduction) During that time the Congo was a terrible place filled with death and destruction. People were getting tortured to death every place you went and the most horrifying part of it all was that King Leopold was able to hide what he was doing from just about the entire world. Conrad, having witnessed the bloody truth of the Congo, realized that even though we would like to believe everyone has good in them, there are just some people who are just pure evil. Conrad is not alone in visiting the Congo and then being traumatized by their experience, their were many others whom had traveled to the Congo and were changed forever.
One of these people was an African-American man named George Washington Williams. In Hochschild's book "King Leopold's Ghost," it was mentioned that Williams was a brilliant man whom had accomplished so much over the course of his life and one of his many aspirations was to have African Americans return to Africa. Through a connection he made at the White House, Williams was able to contact Leopold to see if he could turn his aspiration into reality, but it was denied. None the less, Williams was able to meet Leopold and also was able to have an interview with him. When he first met with Leopold, William's was fooled just like the rest of the world, believing Leopold's act of a noble man who was doing great things. But when Williams took his long trip around the Africa he thought he knew, the one that he dreamed of, he witnessed all of the horrible crimes that were being committed. He kept his many observations and wrote them all down in his "Open Letter" to the king. He talked about how "Stanley and his white assistants had used a variety of tricks, such as fooling Africans into thinking that whites had supernatural powers, to get Congo chiefs to sign their land over to Leopold." Williams also talked about how African women were being kidnapped and were being used as concubines, but also just all of the death and torture that was going on through out the Congo. Williams was a man who had vision of greatness for his fellow African Americans, but he realized that their original country of origin had turned into blood and Hell on Earth. Williams saw that the man whom had deceived him and knows now that their is evil in some people.
For me, "King Leopold's Ghost" was an eye opening read. I had learned about the Holocaust and other terrible historical events, but never had I heard of one person to just be so pure evil and hide what they were doing from the entire world! To have so much torture and death under your seat and to not even be deterred by it is just so mind blowing. Leopold was a man of greed, evil, and genius all mixed together. What really caught my attention was the cruelty to the Congo natives, how they were getting beet, tortured, and murdered every single day. I believe myself to be one whom has good morals and reading about King Leopold's rule in the Congo physically and mentally sick.
King Leopold ll was a man who had changed the minds of many people about human nature including Conrad, Williams, and myself. I would like to believe that there is good every person, but Leopold had proven me wrong from what he had done in the Congo. There are just the rare few of people who are just pure evil and greedy, which are just the terrible qualities of human nature.