rare historical photo: “father stares at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old, belgian congo, 1904”

September 27, 2016
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By T. McLendon, AFROPUNK Contributor

Europeans often whitewash the history of colonialism under the guise of wanting to “spread their culture” or “promote progress” when in reality, they inflicted torture on natives for the sake of economic gain. Much of the collective Black conscious centers itself around the atrocities of slavery in the Americas by the British, French, and Spanish. But on the continent, Belgian colonizers took delight in the mutilation of slaves on conquered land in ways unimaginable. In hopes to introduce the continent to civilization, King Leopold II thought it best to use brute force. The picture above displays, “A Congolese man looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter who was killed, and allegedly cannibalized, by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company militia.” Does this seem civilized to anyone?

Rare Historical Photos, the website from which this photograph was obtained, displays a quote from a Danish missionary present during this era. “In Forbath’s words: The baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State…. The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber; they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber… They became a sort of currency. They came to be used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace… the people who were demanded for the forced labor gangs; and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonuses on the basis of how many hands they collected.” Is it any question that the barbaric nature of this violence still echoes in the heart of the continent today? The nations of Central Africa (in historical Congo) are still rebounding from the violence and exploitation several centuries ago, and conversations centering the revival and development of the continent must reckon with the horrors of the past.


To see more Rare Historical Photos, visit their website: http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/