I’m tempted to start a quarterly column with the above title.
Every quarter that I’m in college, I find out something that I didn’t know before, that was specifically denied to me in terms of information discovery during my tenure in the public school system. My first such discovery was that the first piece of literature ever published on American soil was a book of poems. The second was that Lincoln wasn’t the benevolent man history books in public schools suggest he was (it’s not that he wasn’t a good guy, but he was just as racist as the next wasp male in his era). The third was that the aforementioned book of poetry was written by a woman named Anne Bradstreet.
The fourth is an odd historical fact that is not taught in public schools in world history for whatever reason. King Leopold II of Belgium who is reputed by history to be this humanitarian soul… in all actuality made his riches and built the economy of his country on a web of brutality and horror so atrocious and so astounding that the world stood up and took notice of it and called it what it was at the time. It was the first humanitarian rights movement of the modern age, and I knew nothing about it.
The historical fact, in short, short summary goes along this line: It is suspected that the death toll in the Congo Free State under Leopold’s reign was in the 5 to 6 million range, about the same as the estimated number of deaths at the hands of the Nazis during the holocaust.
Some of you reading this now, may have been aware of this fact. I wasn’t and it shocked me to realize that I didn’t know it, had never heard of it, and was in all likelihood specifically directed around this piece of information in my previous learning experiences for various reasons unknown to me, in spite of the gold mine of information available regarding this dark period in Africa’s past.
Lucky for me, I get to write a paper on the subject as my final grade in Advanced Comp.
The question I have for you to ponder, and the one I will endeavor to answer as I write my paper is this: “Why don’t we know this?” Why isn’t something of this magnitude and scale required knowledge for future reference in every public school “world history” class?
Food for thought.