Harvesting Rubber

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Africans harvesting rubber in the Congo
One of the precious resources of the Congo was its rubber trees. The industrial revolution in Europe had brought a growing demand for the resilient material. Harvesting the precious substance from the trees was very labor intensive, so the Belgians wanted a cheap source of labor. Leopold put in place a forced labor system to keep the money flowing. 

Natives of the Congo Free State were expected to pay taxes. Since they had not operated with a money economy, this requirement forced natives to work for the white men for very low wages under very difficult conditions. The rubber tax was particularly onerous. 

The Congo was depopulated as many fled their villages to avoid the taxes.


This is part of That Magnificent African Cake: The Congo Free State