Points of Entry

"To Enter Africa from America" approaches the intellectual and cultural history of the African Question from various points of entry that best represent American engagement with the African Question, from Liberian Independence to the Versailles Conference. Each section will include: interpretive maps that visualize the event or issue as it reflects the African Question; brief scholarly essays on the events and issues; selected TEI-encoded primary documents (in full or partial text) accompanied by short analyses; annotated photographs and images; and visualizations such as word clouds, key words in context graphs, and word frequency graphs, created using the metadata on the site, as well as the off-site corpus. The corpus includes hundreds of documents that could not be included on the website due to their size (e.g., novels, plays, journal articles, travel narratives), as well as those sources included on the website.

Berlin Conference

The Berlin Conference, held during the winter of 1884-85, inaugurated what the British newspaper, The Times, called the "scramble for Africa." Convened by Otto von Bismarck—Chancellor of the recently unified Germany—dignitaries representing the United States, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, the Netherlands, Russia, Portugal, the Ottoman Empire, and the United Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden gathered in Berlin to reach an international agreement regarding the free navigation of the Congo and Niger Rivers as well as an end to the slave trade. The conference recognized the legitimacy of King Leopold of Belgium's Congo Free State and established procedures for future European claims to territory in Africa.

The Congo Question

In 1876, supporters of King Leopold of Belgium's exploits in the Congo Basin established the African International Association (Association Internationale Africaine) to facilitate the "civilization" of Central Africa through exploration, missionary activity, the establishment of trading posts, and the abolition of the internal slave trade. By 1877, there existed an American Branch under the Presidency of John H.B. Latrobe, a lawyer who had been active in the U.S. Liberian colonization project. Delegates from this group attended the annual meetings of the AIA alongside members from "National Committees" representing Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, France, Austria, Germany, and Spain. With the help of British-born, self-identified American explorer Henry Morton Stanley, the AIA and its affiliates would lay the groundwork for the official founding of the Congo Free State in 1885 in the aftermath of the Berlin Conference. American and U.S. government interest in the Congo did not wain, increasing after the American public learned of atrocities committed against Africans residing in the Free State. American reformers, missionaries, and government officials played key roles in supporting the creation of the Belgian Congo colony (established in 1908) to replace the failed state.