NOT a Congo hanging in 1908
This horrible picture has been shared countless times all over the internet for over a decade.
A group of men, partially uniformed, surround a little black boy who is standing on a wooden block.
He appears to have a noose around his neck and is about to be hanged.
One man gets ready to hit the block under the boy’s feet away while another is reading from a book.
The photo is real.
However it is almost always accompanied with a description that states that these are Belgian soldiers hanging a child in the Congo under King Leopold because his father did not work hard enough or a similar story.
The story is incorrect.
The king of Belgium, Leopold II, is absolutely responsible for many horrific things that happened in the Congo.
He couldn’t persuade the Belgian government to support his plans to colonize the Congo Basin so he started the Congo Free state which resulted in colonists from all over the Western world, often supported by mercenaries, doing whatever they wanted, with horrific consequences for the local people.
Things go so bad that eventually the Belgian state took control of the region and created Belgian Congo.
This made things in the colony better but the situation was still oppressive and unfair.
So the photo could have been as described, colonialists and mercenaries did hang, torture and abused locals.
But the men in this photo are not dressed like Belgian colonists, Mercenaries or Belgian soldiers (Force Publique).
Those would have worn a tropical uniform.
These men are wearing American uniforms.
I checked with several experts and we all agreed that this picture was most likely taken around the WW1 era, somewhere in the United States.
But there isn’t much we can say about the exact situation.
However there is only one source that claims to know more.
The Nanny Jack & Co. Archives has the highest resolution version of this picture that I could find and it was uploaded to a Facebook group called ‘Eyes are the windows to the soul; Collected Images of African Americans’, in August 2017 with the following description;
“Image # 15 Unthinkable
World War I Era: 1914-199
Real Photo Post Card Negro Boy Mock Lynching
The horrific scene was photographed at Camp Zachary
Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky during World War I. The soldier standing on left possibly was reading from the bible ?
Racial tension were high after the war ended and by the Summer and Fall of 1919 there were some twenty-six anti- black riots across America. The lynching of blacks increased from fifty-eight in 1918 to seventy-seven in 1919!! According to records at least ten victims were war veterans and some were lynched in their uniforms.
Negro soldiers fought valiantly in France but returned home to the United States of America to fight in yet another battle… this one for equality and respect!
I’m puzzled by the photograph but not surprised!
So many questions and yet again so few answers.
Image Courtesy of The Nanny Jack & Co. Archives”
This story matches what we thought of the story but unfortunately there is no way of confirming it.
Camp Taylor was segregated and there are many stories of disgusting things like the scene in this picture happening in the US at that time.
But this picture could also be a “joke”, a scene that the soldiers at the time thought as funny in stead of an actual hanging.
We can’t be sure of this of course, but the boy’s hands are not tied, you don’t need a block if you’re going to pull him into the air by hand anyway, the smashing a box from under the boy’s feet with a big mallet while it just could have been kicked over, someone reading from a book, all that to me suggests it might be a staged situation.
A vile, disgusting, racist scene but probably and hopefully not a real hanging.
I have tried several times to get in touch with a representative of the Nanny Jack & Co. Archives but they have not gotten back to me.
So the conclusion is unfortunately that we can not be 100% certain of what we are seeing in this picture and when or when it was taken.
I think that the Camp Zachary Taylor story is likely and very possible but until the original owner of the picture gets in touch we just can’t be sure.
However one fact is completely clear; this photo was not taken in 1908 and it does not show Belgian soldiers hanging a boy in the Congo.
If more information is found or when I can get in touch with the person I’ve been trying to reach for days, I’ll update this post.
Special thanks to Mr. Hermann.
Picture found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to this picture, I only share it here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.
If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall remove it right away.