Most people have no idea of who is pictured above, but you should. The sight of this man should cause a similar revulsion to that of seeing Mussolini, Mao, Stalin or Hitler, as he committed an African genocide that resulted in the killing of over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

Most of people never learned about him in school, and have also most likely never heard about him in the media either. This is because he’s not included in the popular narrative of oppression (which includes things like U.S. slavery and the Holocaust).


King Leopold II is part of an ongoing history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the popular social narratives taught in our school system today. It doesn’t fit neatly into school curriculums where, paradoxically, it is looked down upon to make overtly racist statements. However, it’s quite fine not to talk about a genocide perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs that killed over 10 million Congolese.

Belgium’s King Leopold II ran a personal empire so vast and cruel, it rivaled – and even exceeded – the crimes of even some of the worst dictators of the 20th century.

When Leopold II ascended to the throne in 1865, he ruled with the kind of gentle hand that Belgians wanted from their king after the democratization of the country in the wake of the multiple revolutions and reforms. He had great ambitions of building an overseas empire, and was convinced, like most statesmen of his time, that a nation’s greatness was directly proportional to the resources it could extract from those colonies.

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He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society and used slave labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, torture, executions, and his own private army.

The empire was known as the Congo Free State, and Leopold II stood as its undisputed slave master. For almost 30 years, rather than being a regular colony of a European government, Congo was administered as the property of Leopold II for his personal enrichment.

The world’s largest plantation, registering at 76 times the size of Belgium, possessed rich mineral and agricultural resources and lost nearly half of its population by the time the first census counted only 10 million people living there in 1924.

Interestingly, when we learn about Africa in the U.S., we learn about a caricatured Egypt, the HIV epidemic, the surface level effects of the slave trade, and if you went to a good school perhaps something about South African Apartheid. We also see lots of pictures of starving children on commercials, safaris on animal shows and we see pictures of vast savannahs and deserts in films and movies.

What we don’t learn about is the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Leopold II essentially turned Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry, and yet history fails to retell the lessons of his tyrannical endeavor.

It seems that when you kill ten million Africans — you aren’t called ‘Hitler’, your name never comes to symbolize the living incarnation of evil, and your picture doesn’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow — rather your crimes are simply swept under the historical rug and the victims of colonialism/imperialism remain forever voiceless.

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h/t walkingbutterfly

Jay Syrmopoulos is a geopolitical analyst, freethinker, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs and holds a BA in International Relations. Jay's writing has been featured on both mainstream and independent media - and has been viewed tens of millions of times. You can follow him on Twitter @SirMetropolis and on Facebook at SirMetropolis.
  • mad

    Sorry but i don’t read trash

    • Leclem

      Unfortunatelly, this is trash that is affecting the whole world today. Obama once mentioned that Jefferson and Franklin owned a quran, he just forgot to mention that is was because they were trying to understand how come this religion was creating so much problems: it led to the first US war outside of its boundaries

  • mad

    Sorry but the majority of people in this country agree with Richard

  • DancingFlower

    You had me until the 300 year b.s..really?

  • Stacey Porter

    Hi – question: what do you mean “in today’s numbers that would mmake about 350 million dead.” ???

    • Joe Mrnka

      Just that the population of the Near East, Middle East is substantially higher in the same geographic locations, and that if someone like Tamerlane would go rampaging through those areas today, the death toll would be far higher.

  • Russ

    interesting. i’d like to see some further investigation that would correlate european imperialism (such as this article describes) and the muslim slave traders in africa. we know slavery has been a source of tremendous wealth for both muslims acting as brokers as well as body-snatchers, and black africans themselves raiding their neighbors. i wonder if there is any investigation that has been done to expose the connection, for example, between european colonialism in africa, the slave trade, and how each influenced and shaped the history?

  • tony ridler

    “Miserable being, must find another, or make an other, more miserable, then its happy”-;#Gorki

    • The world is full of such people. Avoid their company and do NOT elevate them to positions of power..

  • Emmanuel Tooulou

    Saved or savaged by Asians?

  • Benjamin Damien

    Simply because it is not true. It was mainly british propaganda to force King Leopold to surrender Congo. It came also from a mistake of evaluation of population from Stanley (He evaluated the population to 12M, although it was more like 2-3Millions. When a proper count was established, the british press considered the “missing” 10M were killed). Morevover, seeing the low number of militiamen in Congo and the technology of the time, killing 10M people (why???) would have been simply impossible… Leopold has been bad, but not worst that what the french/British/Spanish/Italians/Germans/etc had done at the time…

  • frankfrankie

    French did do a lot of evil, take responsibility, and their are paying dearly now; of course it was not you the bastard. Still the nowadays bastards of France join the bastards of these day ( you just voted to stay the course yesterday) and do their killing around the world under the guidance and alliance of the evil pig that resides in America. Also add to your correct summary: Americans now kill elsewhere, not on their continent, nothing left to kill here.

  • frankfrankie

    the latter is true, velky pes jebe

  • Juan Doroteo Carrio

    Anything that doesn’t make American kids embarrassed about their own country is left out of the history books.

  • ChristianHuls

    Great article… except the part about labeling him a capitalist.

  • Capistranoboy

    Instead of the myriad of philosophical and theoretical references/judgments, this writer could have garnered more empathy by illustrating particular details (dates, places) and facts of the genocide of the Congolese people so as to validate his information.

  • Robby McHenry

    I was not familiar with this horrific atrocity, so I thank the author for exposing it, however I also take exception to the author characterizing Leopold II as a “capitalist”. Capitalism is an economic system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners, rather than by the state. Since a King is the head of state, a wealthy monarch, like Leopold II, is not a capitalist.

  • Greg Robel

    What transparent nonsense! The Islamic and the Arab worlds are now and forever TOTALLY FUCKED UP because of their BENIGHTED INFERIOR CULTURE! God Bless America … and our allies … and Western European values!

  • amanzi

    Yes do you.

  • Elvord Floyd Guidry

    This is not a lie, Haiti is in a financial stand still because of their having to pay France for
    obtaining their freedom during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. France is not the only European country extorting money from people of color. America is no exception.

    • Leclem

      It is a lie, if you want to say otherwise, give some sources at least…

    • Benschachar

      Every once in a while some westerner tries to clean up Haiti and help the people maintain their failing infrastructure only for everything to go right back to crap the moment they leave. Haiti’s problem isn’t Europe.

      • Elvord Floyd Guidry

        Why not visit Haiti and get to know and understand the people. I visited Haiti a couple of years ago and loved it only to return to the US among
        violences, sirens and the unnecessary rush to go nowhere. I was in Haiti for a week and hear no sirens, murders or bad news. Yes they are poor, but they are happy. Their infrastructure since the earth quate is horrible and they are not in a hurry to repair it because of lack of financial resources. Their farming techniques have changed very little since the early 1900’s. The average size farm is one hectare (2.5 Acres), but they are happy. Beautiful people who are religious, friendly and want to be left alone. The people from Haiti are descendants of the first African Americans who fought a war to win their freedom. It was the Haitians who made it possible for the Louisiana Purchase. It was the Haitians who help the US win the Revolutionary War. You can see the status of the participants in downtown Savannah, GA. Follow the true history and you will see that my information is not a lie. The best book to read to determine the culture and emotions of Haiti is “The Black Jacobean”. Basically they are a very proud people who really wants to control their own destiny their way.

  • Benschachar

    No the truth is that Islam is inherently backwards and violent.