“When I arrived in the Congo, I naturally sought for the results of the [Belgians’] brilliant program: “fostering care”, “benevolent enterprise”, an “honest and practical effort” to increase the knowledge of the natives “and secure their welfare”….
I was anxious to see to what extent the natives had “adopted the fostering care” of your Majesty’s “benevolent enterprise,” and I was doomed to bitter disappointment. Instead of the natives of the Congo “adopting the fostering care” of your Majesty’s Government, they everywhere complain that their land has been taken from them by force; that the Government is cruel and arbitrary, and declare that they neither love nor respect the Government and its flag. Your Majesty’s Government has sequestered their land, burned their towns, stolen their property, enslaved their women and children, and committed other crimes too numerous to mention in detail. It is natural that they everywhere shrink from “the fostering care” your Majesty’s Government so eagerly proffers them. …Your Majesty’s Government has been, and is now, guilty of waging unjust and cruel wars against natives.”
– George Washington Williams, “An Open Letter to His Serene Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians and Sovereign of the Independent State of Congo By Colonel, The Honorable Geo. W. Williams, of the United States of America,” 1890
“You couldn’t hold your teeth because of all your trembling, because during those days everything was going boom! It was disgusting… In the white man’s war… you fight and fight and fight until your heart tells you you’re afraid.
It was terrible and hard… We were black and we were nothing. Because of the color of our skins, the Germans called us boots. This hurt every black man, because they actually underestimated us, and disgraced and dishonored us.”
— Kande Kamara, Interview, 1976. Community Television of Southern California, “The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century.” 2004. http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/
Compare these two texts: one by an African-American legislator who had toured the Belgian colony of the Congo, and the second by a chief’s son from colonial West Africa, who was conscripted to fight for the Allies on World War I’s Western front. Both of these are written by non-Europeans about European projects.
Describe what these texts suggest about Europe and the world in that period. How do their perspectives differ or compare? How might each of these men’s race, class, nationality and/ or experiences have shaped his ideas and perceptions?
This prompt is asking you to interpret the texts and make a historical argument with evidence from the primary and secondary sources (you must refer to more than the words on this page!) You may use the extra secondary source on G.W. Williams for background on his history; we know less about Kande Kamara’s background so you may use the reading on Imperialism to get a perspective on his position as a colonial subject.
Length: 1-2 pages double-spaced. Times New Roman 12-point font or equivalent and standard margins. You must cite your sources for every piece of evidence that you use, and mark every phrase that is not your own with quotation marks and a citation. Use footnotes and provide a full citation (see the Assignments section of learn on how to cite.)