The illusive Pygmies that were slowly replaced by the Bakongo, Bateke and Sanga peoples first settled the Republic of the Congo in the mid-15th century.
Once the Portuguese discovered the coastal areas, the natives (having made friends quickly) began to cooperate with the Europeans, and the slave trade started to flourish. The coastal area, in fact, became a major source for the transatlantic trade.
A series of revolts led by Kimpa Vita during the 17th century ultimately soured the relationship between the Kongolese and Portuguese. These battles lasted throughout much of the 1600s, as the Kongolese fought the Portuguese against their push for extra territorial rights.
Kimpa Vita, a Catholic nun, established the Anthonian prophetic movement after seeing visions of St. Anthony of Padua commanding her to restore the kingdom of Kongo. Although her revolt was short lived, and relatively unsuccessful, she managed to capture the capital Mbanza Kongo. Portuguese Capushin Friars condemned Kimpa Vita for being a witch, and ordered her death.
For many nationalists she is a symbol of African resistance against early colonialism, and widely regarded as the African version of Joan of Arc.
Over many decades, an array of European traders searched for additional economic opportunities within the Congo region, and then, in 1891, this resource-rich land was colonized by the French, and named the French Congo – later the Middle Congo.
Under the command of the French, the natives of the Congo suffered through forced labor, and saw their valuable rubber and ivory resources exploited as well.
In 1945, Jean-Felix Tchicaya was elected into the French Parliament, becoming one of the first African leaders given the opportunity.