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Congo Love SongAfrican American Culture and the Crisis of the Colonial State$
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Ira Dworkin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469632711

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469632711.001.0001

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George Washington Williams’s Stern Duty of History

George Washington Williams’s Stern Duty of History

(p.19) Chapter 1 George Washington Williams’s Stern Duty of History
Congo Love Song

Ira Dworkin

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter begins at Hampton Institute in 1889 where Williams traveled after meeting in Belgium with King Leopold II. Williams, whose interest in the Congo predates the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference, went to Hampton to enlist African American students to travel with him to Africa, which framed his Congo trip within a tradition of ongoing African American interest in Africa. Williams’s initial optimism for the Congo quickly soured, and he wrote a series of open letters--to Leopold, U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, and railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington--that inspired opposition to Leopold’s regime that continued well after Williams’s untimely death in 1891. An examination of Williams’s struggles to develop and define a relationship to the Belgian empire against the backdrop of the history of the transatlantic slave trade reveals an African American connection to Africa that is grounded in a global political landscape of emancipation and anti-imperialism.

Keywords:   George Washington Williams, Leopold II, King of Belgium, Berlin Conference (1884–85), Anti-imperialism

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