On NPR tonight, September 9, there was an interview with the author (I
forget his name) of "King Leopold's Ghost," and Twain's name came up.
King Leopold, of course, colonized the Congo at the end of the last century
and instituted slavery for the collection of natural rubber. A dock worker
in England noticed ships came from the Congo laden with valuable rubber and
ivory, but returned, not with goods for trade, but with only soldiers and
munitions. He deduced, correctly, that slavery was at work. The 25-year old
dock worker - sorry, I don't remember his name either - singlehandedly
started an international human rights movement. He started with the U.S.,
which had been the first country to recognize formally King Leopold's Congo
(that's right, it was his alone for 23 years until the scandal forced him
to hand it over to Belgium). In any case, the dock worker met up with
Twain, who reportedly gave a number of lectures in the U.S. about the
abominable conditions in the Congo.
The NPR program was the WHYY interview program that normally follows All
Things Considered. Did anyone else hear the program? Does anyone know how
instrumental Twain's role was in publicizing the atrocities in the Congo?