Edward D. Morel, The Black Man’s Burden (1903)
Edward Morel (1873-1924) was a French-born British journalist and socialist who drew attention to imperial abuses and led a campaign against slavery in the Belgian Congo. While working for a Liverpool shipping firm in Brussels, Morel noticed that the ships leaving Belgium for the Congo carried only guns, chains, and ammunition, but no commercial goods, and that ships arriving from the colony came back full of valuable products such as rubber and ivory, which led him to surmise that Belgian King Leopold II's colony was exploitative and relied on slave labor. Morel wrote The Black Man’s Burden (1920), from which the following excerpt is taken, as a response to Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The White Man’s Burden.” It is [the Africans] who carry the “Black man’s burden.” They have not withered away before the white man’s occupation. Indeed… Africa has ultimately absorbed within itself every Caucasian... In hewing out for himself a fixed abode in Africa, the white man has massacred the African in heaps. The African has survived, and it is well for the white settlers that he has. In the process of imposing his political dominion over the African, the white man has carved broad and bloody avenues from one end of Africa to the other. The African has resisted, and persisted.
For three centuries the white man seized and enslaved millions of Africans and transported them, with every circumstance of ferocious cruelty, across the seas. Still the African survived and, in his land of exile, multiplied exceedingly.
But what the partial occupation of his soil by the white man has failed to do; what the mapping out of European political “spheres of influence” has failed to do; what the Maxim [machine gun] and the rifle, the slave gang, labor in the bowels of the earth and the lash, have failed to do; what imported measles, smallpox and syphilis have failed to do; what even the oversea slave trade failed to do, the power of modern...
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