The scramble for Africa began in the mid-1870 with the purpose of colonizing the “Dark Continent”. It was called the dark continent because of the large basin rain forests surround the Congo River. In 1876 Leopold II hired Sir Henry Morton Stanley to capture as much land in the Congo area as possible. Both Leopold and Stanley were very eager to tap into Africa’s natural supplies. To do so, Stanley had hundreds of illiterate African chief’s sign away their land to the king. Most of whom had little idea of the agreement to which they were signing. (Ascherson 2). Stanley was able to get over 905,000 square miles. Leopold was not intending for this to become a Belgian colony, but his private state. Leopold did not want his earnings to conflict with the Belgian government. All he was interested in was a side job.
The same year that Leopold employed Stanley, he created the International African Association. It’s an organization that strove for colonization and exploration of Africa (Brainard 4). He also established a benevolent committee for the civilization in Central Africa. During the beginning of his process he had said that he wanted to improve the native’s lives, but that didn’t last for long. Soon he drifted away from these promises and started to run the state freely.
On November 15, 1884 European and American representatives attended a conference in Berlin. They were to discuss how to divide Africa evenly (Rosenberg 1). The French dominated most of West Africa, and the British controlled the eastern and southern Africa. The Belgians acquired the vast territory that became known as The Congo. The Germans also had their share of land, acquiring four colonies in Africa. The Portuguese held a small colony in West Africa and two large ones in Southern Africa. The Congo Free State was private property thanks to Stanley’s treaties he had obtained.
In the beginning Congo Free State was going to be used for its ivory resources. Ivory was used to make things like piano keys and jewelry. It quickly shifted to rubber. It all began in the early 1890s when Dunlop invented the inflatable rubber tire. Throughout the world's tropics people rushed to establish rubber plantations. Rubber is one of the most important products to come out of the rainforest. Leopold II had the most land with rubber trees. More than half of his property was covered in rubber trees.