Authors Kerry McDonald and Robert Coles see Sir Henry Morton Stanley as a historical figure that should be learned from. Their debut book, Into Africa, is a re-imagining of the Stanley-Livingstone story. It highlights Stanley’s troubling attitude towards race and women, amidst the stark realities of the African slave trade.
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”—a phrase that captured the imagination of millions and catapulted Stanley into international stardom—has come under new scrutiny. According to BBC News, more than 1000 people inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement have signed a petition to remove Stanley’s statue in Wales. They claim that he is a symbol of “excessive violence, wanton destruction, the selling of laborers into slavery, and shooting Africans indiscriminately.”
“Slavery destroyed Africa to such an extent that it has not recovered,” states Coles. “Through the main character, Janet, and to a lesser extent, David Livingstone, I want readers to see it was possible then and now for whites to change, to break from Victorian racial mores. I want readers to view this change from an African perspective, where it will take more than words and promises to transform. For whites to change, they will have to initiate new deeds and actions and make difficult decisions, but it is possible.”
It’s the 19th century, and Africa is under British colonial rule. World famous missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, has vanished. His sister, Janet, receives a cryptic message from Africa, along with a necklace she gave him, and she knows he is still alive and needs her help.
Enter the divisive Henry Stanley. All too happy to make his mark by finding David Livingstone, he is not about to let a woman slow him down. He’d lead the team, assuming Janet, who had never left her tiny Scottish town, would simply drop out before they even started.