News Release

Statues Tumble

Sam Gillies via Storyful

ADAM HOCHSCHILD, adamhochschild at earthlink.net
Hochschild has written about the conquest of the Congo in his King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa.

He said today: “As the impact of the video of George Floyd’s killing continues to ricochet around the world, one result has been an epidemic of toppling statues. In the United States, longstanding monuments to Confederate generals have fallen. In Belgium, statues of King Leopold II, the ruthless colonizer of the Congo, have been splashed with red or taken down, and in Australia a mountain range named after him lost its name. In Britain, a statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol merchant and slave trader, was tossed into the city’s harbor.”

Hochschild specifically mentions the statue of Edward Colston in his book on the British antislavery movement, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves.

“When people get shocked by an injustice today,” says Hochschild, “it’s only natural that they look around and realize that, on all sides of us, we have symbols of injustices in the past. We would be shocked if Germany had statues of Hitler in prominent places, but Leopold, like Hitler, was responsible for millions of deaths. I sympathize with the Belgians who want to see him gone. Congo today still suffers from the legacy of its ruthless colonization, and some modern corporations — Unilever, for instance — have roots that go back to the forced labor system founded by Leopold. And in so many ways, in Britain, the United States, and other countries, we are still dealing with the heritage of slavery.”

Hochschild teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of ten books.