As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. Although 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the intermediary languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.
The Abir Congo Company (founded as the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (ABIR) and later known as the Compagnie du Congo Belge) was a company which harvested natural rubber in the Congo Free State, the private property of King Leopold II of Belgium. The company was founded with British and Belgian capital and was based in Belgium. By 1898 there was no longer any British shareholders and ABIR changed its name to the Abir Congo Company and changed its residence for tax purposes to the Free State. The company was granted a large concession in the north of the country and the rights to tax the inhabitants. This tax was taken in the form of rubber obtained from a relatively rare rubber vine. The collection system revolved around a series of trade posts along the two main rivers in the concession. Each post was commanded by a European agent and manned with armed sentries to enforce taxation and punish any rebels. (Read more...)
Sheppard's efforts contributed to the contemporary debate on European colonialism and imperialism in the region, particularly amongst those of the African American community. However, it has been noted that he traditionally received little attention in literature on the subject.