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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

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

Ira Dworkin

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469632711.003.0002

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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