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Reviewed by Grace Masso for Readers' Favorite
Among Kings: The Amazing Adventures of the Congo's African American Livingstone and the Courageous People who Toppled King Leopold II by Joey O’Connor tells the story of one man’s courage as he becomes the voice of a voiceless and enslaved people, of the greed of a foreign king, and a tide that changed the history of a nation. It is also the story of the years of servitude of the people of the Congo, colonized by Belgium, and the acts of bravery that brought down the heartless occupier.
William Sheppard is a black American missionary and an explorer whose first visit to the Congo is met with insurmountable challenges as he and his friend, Samuel Lapsley, struggle to establish their first mission. Their travel along the Congo River is fraught with adversity and danger from the natural elements, wild animals, and unfriendly tribes. Faced with a tragedy at the mission, William sets out on adventures that will gain him respect among kings and governments. Desirous of reuniting with his fiancée, Lucy Gantt, he travels back to the US, but meets the country far worse than he has ever known it, with Jim Crow Laws and racism gaining ground every day. William returns to the Congo with Lucy and is appalled that King Leopold II has enslaved the entire nation for his rubber trade. With his camera, he designs a plan of activism that will bring down the greedy and inhuman colonizer.
Among Kings is a story that does a lot of justice to history, and readers with knowledge of King Leopold II’s colonization of the Congo will adore the book. It has strong moments and scenes that are terrifically written. From the experience of young Shamba, the descriptions of the tribes and their way of life, the setting in the heart of the jungle, to the experiences of the characters, the author takes readers on a journey to an exciting world that is possible in movies. I loved the strong imagery, the cunning plot, and the author’s intelligent handling of character. This book should be made into a movie. It is gripping, filled with pathos, and entertaining at the same time.