From the late 1800's until after the turn of the 20th century, a Belgian ruler known only as King Leopold II had control and ownership over the Congo. Similar to other chronicles in history, great acts of atrocity occurred because a single ruler was consumed by greed; eventually costing millions of lives. A great deal of misguiding and deception took place in order for Leopold to keep building upon his power. Leopold knew how to control and manipulate people in powerful political positions, and hastily used this maneuvering as a way to cause very little investigation. Fortunately, there were those who could see through the fraudulent image of King Leopold and his' Congo. The efforts and witness of Edmund Morel, George Washington Williams, Reverend William Sheppard, and Roger Casement helped to expose the actual facts of the Congo occurrences to the public. "Although they failed to end forced labor, the Congo reformers for roughly a decade were spectacularly successful in keeping the territory in the spotlight- (279). In particular, both George Washington Williams and William H. Sheppard had a change of opinion after being appalled by the acts of white residents in the Congo. .
George Washington Williams led a profound and interesting life, which broke many boundaries at the time regarding African Americans. At fourteen years old, Williams enlisted and fought for the North during the Civil War. In the year 1874 he became the first black to graduate from the Newton Theological Seminary. After a year of being a Baptist minister, he went on to found a national black newspaper, become a lawyer and eventually was the first African American elected to the Ohio Legislature. Williams had been to the White House visiting President Chester A. Arthur near the end of his presidency. Coincidentally, Henry Shelton Sanford, who had been trying to influence the United States into recognizing Leopold's Congo, had chosen the same time to meet at the White House.