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In the early 1900s, the missionary Alice Seeley-Harris produced what was probably the first photographic campaign in support of human rights.
She exposed the atrocities that underpinned King Leopold II’s regime in the Congo Free State, bringing to public attention the plight of the Congolese people under a violent and oppressive regime.
These photographs fundamentally shifted public awareness of the deep-rooted hypocrisy of King Leopold II’s promise of colonial benevolence, and caused an outcry at the time of their publication in Europe and America.
"Alice Harris' shocking photos revealed to the world the horrendous truth of slavery in the Congo and helped bring public pressure and international scrutiny to the situation faced by its people"
- Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International
Banner images: 1) Alice Seeley Harris, Manacled members of a chain gang at Bauliri. A common punishment for not paying taxes, Congo Free State, c. 1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph. 2)Alice Seeley Harris / J.H. Harris, Alice Seeley Harris with a large group of Congolese children, Congo Free State, c.1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list