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Annual Dinner in the Library
Guests were welcomed to the Library by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl and Library Advisory Board Vice President Robert O'Donnell. As dessert was served, the Morrison Library was hushed as Adam Hochschild recounted his intriguing tale to research his book, "King Leopold's Ghost."
Hochschild described in detail how a brief footnote, in a book on an entirely different subject, started him on his quest for truth. This footnote stated that nearly 10 million people were killed, or died of starvation and disease between the 1880s and 1909, the period of King Leopold's rule. Hochschild understandably wanted to know why so few of us have ever heard about these atrocities. His research, much of it done in the stacks of Cal's Library, led him to memoirs, missionary accounts, government records, and the testimony of Africans themselves to unearth the long-forgotten facts behind Joseph Conrad's fictional account, "Heart of Darkness."
Hochschild told his audience that during the 1880's, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and largely unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed the population by ten million--all while shrewdly cultivating his international reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose this secret crime finally led to the first great international human rights movement of the 20th century in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated.
Following his remarks, dinner attendees had the opportunity to discuss the writing and researching process with Adam Hochschild in more detail, and were treated to additional wonderful anecdotes about his efforts to get this important story published.