The Amazing Adventures of the Congo's African American Livingstone and the Courageous People who Toppled King Leopold II

A New Novel by Joey O'Connor

Inspired by True Events

Available in Print & Kindle on Amazon

Among Kings Book Trailer

Learn more about William Sheppard, human rights hero of the Congo.


A Rave Review from Reader's Favorites

Among Kings is a spellbinding book, haunting and lyrical in style, and filled with historical facts. Having been to the Congo and read a lot about the country’s history, I was immediately interested in this book, but the story and the writing surpassed everything I had expected to read. The author provides a powerful picture of the Congo at the time of Leopold II, with fascinating images of the jungle, the natural beauty of the country, and the way of life of the people. It is a world in which drum song and birdsong awakened the villages, with the unfolding beauty of dawn reflecting in the river, jungle, sun, and sky. The characters are well-developed, and apart from the protagonist, I loved the way Shamba, the Kuba warrior, is developed. Other supporting characters like Masuka, Bula Matari, and King Leopold are deftly written. Among Kings is a story of courage and unusual bravery, a well-researched novel that brilliantly documents an appalling moment in the history of the Congo. The writing is impeccably good, filled with song and music. Joey O'Connor has diligently researched a story that must be told over and over, and has written it in a way that will be savored over the ages.

Amazon Five Star Reviews

"This is the kind of book you dive into, settle in and buckle up. You will be going on a journey. O'Connor has done a great job weaving all the heroes and villains together. Timely reading today...when American descendants of all African nations are standing up for their due. Much has changed...but much has not."

How Did I Not Know All This History?
L. Binley, Author, Beach Glass

"This book gave breath and life to an untold story I never knew about. I journeyed with the characters experiencing their pain, determination, and hopefulness. The author gives voices to heroes in history that would otherwise go unnoticed. What an unbelievable story of justice and mercy we can all learn from. Highly recommend the read."

An Unbelievable Story of Justice & Mercy
Mandy Hinkle, Artist

"As a pastor who has been to Africa and worked with missionaries, I read this story initially relating to William's calling and sympathizing with the obstacles he had to overcome to follow his dream. What I was not expecting was the timely relevance of issues of racism, globalization, politics, religion, economics and tribal clashes of cultures. Sometimes it's easier to see the issues of our own day through the stories of the past. Highly recommend reading Among Kings!"

Inspiring and Incredibly Relevant
Todd Rodarmel, Pastor, Author

"This is an epic story of soul-stirring true events; one of those rare books that lingers in your mind long after you read the last page. A stirring adventure story that I could hardly put down, it was also a thoroughly researched historical saga that educated as it entertained. Poignant themes emerged, as I journeyed with the characters through love, loss, faith, hypocrisy, revenge, repentance and forgiveness."

A Book for All Times, But Especially for Now!
Rebecca Faubion, Artist, Artful Kids Club

"LOVE this book! The author does a masterful job of weaving together story threads that shine a light on a little known but amazing story of courage, conviction, and camaraderie between a white man and a black man on mission together in the late 1800s. Kudos to Joey O'Connor for giving us this gem of historical fiction at a time when we can use heroes like these men. His writing style is easy to read yet artistically written."

A Great Story in a Time of Great Relevance
Carroll Stevens, Musician, Teacher

Ready for the Among Kings Adventure?

A black American missionary-explorer risks everything to save a nation, leading to the first international human rights trial.

As a young boy growing up in post-Civil War Virginia, William Sheppard knew he wanted to explore the world. What he never expected was becoming a human rights hero who would change the world forever.

"I didn't call Africa. Africa called me."

But as a black American missionary, he faced heartbreaking prejudice in pursuing his passion to explore and to serve.

When he finally arrives in the Congo with his unlikely white missionary colleague — Samuel Lapsley — a deep interracial friendship emerges as they face hardships establishing their mission. The two venture deep into the dangerous, Belgian-controlled Congo ruled by the evil King Leopold II. Traveling by steamship 1,000 miles up the Congo River, these two novice missionaries battle lurking pythons, rampant disease, and cannibal tribes.

When tragedy strikes the mission, Sheppard’s sadness drives him in search of adventure to overcome his grief, discover new kingdoms and ultimately, his true self. Against all odds, his discoveries bring him global fame where he is celebrated among kings, queens, and presidents.

Despite his accomplishments, Sheppard longs to return to America to marry his fiancée — Lucy Gantt — a talented musician and teacher. Letters keep their love alive, but Sheppard has to know if the distance has made their love stronger and will she still go to the Congo to serve beside him?

When he returns to America, he’s shocked by new Jim Crow laws, virulent racism, and the rising oppression of black American civil rights. The world has changed, but for Sheppard, his relationship with Lucy and his notoriety has only grown stronger.

Returning to the Congo mission with Lucy, the stakes are raised when Sheppard makes a shocking discovery: Leopold has enslaved the entire Congo for the rubber trade and his own profit. Unbeknownst to the outside world, slavery and oppression has fallen like a darkness over the Congo. Millions have perished.

Armed with only a simple camera, the courageous Sheppard knows he has to act.

Risking everything, he captures photos and his images expose Leopold’s atrocities to the world, forcing the first international human rights trial in modern history. Sheppard faces an epic courtroom battle. Millions of lives are at stake.

Who will win? The monarch or the missionary?

Discover the courageous African American hero whose activism and passion for social justice helped free an enslaved nation.
Among Kings includes historical photos and Book Club Leader’s Guide Questions
Interview with the Author
What makes Among Kings unique? Why should readers care about William Sheppard?

William Sheppard is one of the most fascinating African Americans of the late Nineteenth Century. He is one of the most unknown African American heroes in America. I became intrigued by Sheppard's story after my brother-in-law gave me a book about Sheppard. As we researched his life and work, it was clear Sheppard was a beloved missionary and explorer. He was lauded by kings, queens and U.S. Presidents. One of the most famous Americans of his day, he spoke at black and white churches all over the East Coast. He is a model of courage, compassion and what it means to stand against injustice. 

Why did you write this book?

In our research, we learned that in the past 20 years over six million people have died in the Congo. It’s the world’s most overlooked humanitarian crisis. What began as curiosity turned into outrage. Here in America, outrage over the racism still in our society inspired us to pursue what an interracial friendship like Sheppard and Lapsley might offer us today.

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