Here is a really interesting article by Liam O’Ceallaigh on King Leopold II of Belgium, who colonized the Congo in the late 1800s. O’Ceallaigh writes that despite atrocities Leopold committed there,
Most of us aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely-repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of a white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into school curriculums in a capitalist society. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in ‘polite’ society; but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocide in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.”
The question of what narratives make it into history books and become common cultural knowledge is, of course, central to We Are Proud to Present… Jackie Sibblies Drury told me the other day that she only learned about the Herero genocide when she happened to google “Germany and black people.” How many of us learned about it for the first time because of this play? How many of our audience members will be hearing about it for the first time?