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Female atrocity victim, Congo
University of Southern California. Libraries
International Mission Photography Archive, File: CSCNWW33/OS10/22,
At the Congo Balolo Mission, in colonial Congo Free State, (present day Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Tinted lantern slide titled "The Congo Atrocities" showing a young woman. The woman wears a short waist wrap and holds a long wooden cane, since one of her feet has been amputated. :*The woman was probably a worker on a Congolese rubber plantation, a victim of the "Congo Atrocities", punishment, murders and mutilations (including amputation) that took place on colonial rubber plantations in the Congo Free State, a territory privately owned by Belgian King Leopold II, who expolited it for its plant and mineral resources.
Workers on rubber plantations were paid with worthless goods, and it this imbalance of trade that shipping clerk Edmund Morel reported in his columns for The West African Mail, noticing that weapons were going into the country to control the rubber workers. An investigation took place in the British Parliament, but missionaries felt that they could do nothing in the face of veiled threats by King Leopold II, on whose territory they were preaching.
In 1895, Dr Harry Guinness heard first hand witness accounts of amputations, and became involved in the cause to end the brutality on the plantations, helping to form the Congo Reform Association in 1904. International intervention forced Leopold II to abdicate in the same year, and although reforms began under his successor, Albert, change in the rubber plantations would not take effect for some time.
This slide was part of a set by Congo Balolo Mission missionary and photographer Alice Seely Harris, who with her husband John Harris used these slides in magic lantern shows across the country to bring the injustices against Congolese workers to public attention.
This slide comes from a collection generated by missionaries working for the Congo-Balolo Mission, a mission begun in 1889 under the supervision of the East London Training Institute for Home and Foreign Missions that developed into the interdenominational evangelical mission Regions Beyond Missionary Union after 1900.