Little-Known Black Human Rights Hero Celebrated in New Historical Fiction Novel


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New York, New York–(Newsfile Corp. – Feb. 10, 2022) – Author Joey O’Connor continues to fascinate readers with his gripping portrayal of William Sheppard, a little-known black human rights hero, in Among Kings: The Incredible Adventures of African American Livingstone of the Congo and the Brave People Who Overthrew King Leopold II. While Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States to commemorate black heroes of the past, Sheppard is barely mentioned despite his contributions.

Inspired by real events, this meticulously researched novel draws on the past of real-life heroes to deliver a powerful tale of how even the humblest of men can overthrow a monarch. In the novel, readers follow the life, loves, journey and adventures of William Sheppard as he overcomes racial prejudice and adversity in a struggle for human rights in the Congo. Risking his life, Sheppard’s brave actions helped end King Leopold II’s slavery in the Congo, changing the course of history for the world.

book cover of Among the Kings

After the Civil War, among the kings follows black missionary William Sheppard from Virginia to the Belgian-controlled Congo, joined only by a white colleague, Samuel Lapsley. Traveling by steamboat 1,000 miles up the Congo River, novice missionaries face dangerous animals, disease, cannibalistic tribes and King Leopold II’s Force Publique army. Sheppard became known around the world for his travels, discoveries and adventures. When tragedy strikes, Sheppard returns to America to marry her fiancé, only to be horrified by the new Jim Crow laws.

Upon their return to the Congo, Sheppard is stunned to realize that King Leopold II has enslaved the entire country to work in the rubber trade. Armed with a simple camera and the steel of his determination, Sheppard risks his life to expose the atrocities of the Belgian king to the world. Researchers now claim that Leopold was responsible for the fourth largest genocide in the world, estimated at eight to twelve million people.

O’Connor’s work is perfect for fans of historical fiction and novels dissecting the racism of the Great Scramble for Africa era, as Colson Whitehead explored the Jim Crow era in The Nickelboys. O’Connor’s visual storytelling depicts a world of rich history in a clash of turn-of-the-century historical events. The Great Scramble for Africa, the Industrial Revolution and the Jim Crow periods provide dramatic backdrops for this powerful story. Critics and other authors praise among the kings as an incredible contribution to the genre. Thomas Locke, bestselling author of test ridewrites: “The clarity of O’Connor’s drama, the strength of the plot, the lively characters and above all the excellent writing suggest an author at the height of his career.”

among the kings is also an excellent resource for the classroom exploring the historical intersection of religion, African culture, and the global abuses of Western colonizers. The friendship between Sheppard and Samuel Lapsley highlights the dynamics of interracial friendship at this time. among the kings includes photos and questions from the book club to guide discussions and foster engagement on race relations, black history, colonialism and racial reconciliation.

As one of the most famous explorer-missionaries of his time, William Sheppard spoke in white and black churches across America. As a hunter, missionary, explorer, art collector, author and human rights hero, Sheppard’s accomplishments in the Congo have won him praise from kings, chiefs, queens and presidents. In modern times, Sheppard is little known during Black History Month, making it among the kings a necessary work to remind readers of our time that there are many voices in the choir calling for a freer and fairer world. O’Connor says, “William Sheppard needs to be included in the human rights conversation.”

O’Connor first heard of William Sheppard fifteen years ago when Ken Straw (his brother-in-law) shared a book about Sheppard’s life. O’Connor and Straw formed the new nonprofit Congo Reform Association to help end the conflict in the Congo.

O’Connor said: “During our research on the Congo, we have learned that over the past twenty years more than six million people have died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to two Congo wars and mineral rights conflicts.” O’Connor even traveled to Eastern Congo to work with his friends, Camille & Esther Ntoto, founders of Africa New Day.

Asked about new books, O’Connor said he was writing a modern Congolese thriller about human rights, cryptocurrency and a global conspiracy to control global mineral resources. “Most people in the world don’t know that many of the minerals that power our cell phones come directly from Congo. The Congo is in everyone’s pocket.

Among Kings: The Incredible Adventures of African American Livingstone of the Congo and the Brave People Who Overthrew King Leopold II is available for purchase at and Barnes & Noble.

Joey O’Connor is the award-winning author of twenty-one books and screenplays. He is the co-founder of the Congo Reform Association, whose mission is to inspire social action through stories, film and social media to end Congo’s conflict and create a self-reliant and prosperous Congo. . O’Connor lives and writes in San Clemente, California. Congo Reform Association or

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