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.
Harris’ photographs circulated widely, in the press and reproduced as lantern slides illustrating lectures by the Congo Reform Association. This exposure resulted in international political pressure on King Leopold II, eventually forcing him to relinquish absolute rule over the Congo Free State in 1908.
Brutal Exposure: The Congo coincides with Autograph’s London exhibition Congo Dialogues: Alice Seeley Harris.
Brutal Exposure and Congo Dialogues marks the 175th anniversary of Anti-Slavery International and the invention of photography. Alice Seeley Harris was a founding member of Anti-Slavery International in 1839.
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 peoplePaul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International
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