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T he sad tale of Ota Benga (pictured) highlights the many racially motivated atrocities Black people f aced even as the dawn of the 20th century was unf olding. A Congolese native and Mbuti pygmy, Benga suf f ered under America’s racist practices as part of an exhibit f or the St. Louis World Fair . Benga, snatched away f rom his home under the gaze of a businessman and missionary, would later be put on display at the Bronx Z oo’s “Monkey House” exhibit. Dismayed that he couldn’t return to his native land, Benga would commit suicide on this day in 1916. SEE ALSO: 200 Free Blacks Leave State Of Georgia For Liberia On T his Day In 1895 Benga narrowly escaped enslavement and death as his lands were invaded by Belgium f orces. Losing
Benga was the most curious of them all. . Louis World Fair of f icials to bring a group of pygmies back to the States f or an exhibition. McGee wanted an assortment of races to study as part of plan to highlight the theory of “cultural evolution” as he called it . Benga survived but was later captured by slave traders. As was the tradition f or his people. It was later written that because of Verner’s gesture in f reeing Benga. and the group lef t their home.his f amily and children to the Belgian military f orce.J. Verner was able to negotiate Benga’s f reedom with a pound of salt and some cloth. it allowed him to persuade other Af ricans to join the ef f ort in returning to America. which gained him f avor in the eyes of the suspicious Mbuti tribesman. Anthropologist W. American businessman and missionary Samuel Phillips Verner (pictured at right) was sent to Af rica by the St. Benga’s teeth were f iled into sharp points and local papers ref erred to him as a “cannibal” and other such names. Benga was a sensation f or the onlookers. Upon arrival.
with the pygmies later living among the Batwa people. but she later died of a snakebite. Va. Af ter entering an orphanage.Verner. got custody of the pygmy af ter the zoo ousted him. Benga and Verner would return to the Congo.but Verner was cast out f or asking f or too much money to house the pygmy. but the spectators grew too immense. Benga also made several attempts to escape to no avail. Benga was allowed to stay in the museum . and unknown to Benga. Benga married a Batwa woman. Returning back to America with Verner. but he was later asked to leave af ter a violent outburst with a guest. An exhibit was erected. according to accounts. he was exploited. Gordon. McGee tried to allow the Af ricans space to live as they did bef ore in f orests. couldn’t protect the group f rom crowds who wanted to gawk at them. ill with malaria in 1904 when they arrived. Black clergymen decried Benga’s involvement in the exhibit. which brought unwanted negative attention to the zoo . At one point. military f orces were called in to command the crowds and Benga would imitate their moves. Benga was given freedom to run the grounds before zoo officials slyly convinced the man to live in the Monkey House . he lived in a spare room at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. James H. Rev. After a relatively innocent visit to the Bronx Z oo in 1906. Benga worked as a host at the building.. one of the clergymen who protested Benga’s time in the zoo. and . Benga was later moved to Lynchburg.
” . In 1914. Gordon had Benga’s teeth capped and dressed him as a southerner. however. Longing to return home. Va. Benga was later moved to Lynchburg. Phillips Verner Bradford . would publish a book in 1992 titled “Ota Benga: T he Pygmy in the Z oo . and started learning English..pygmy af ter the zoo ousted him. Benga would commit suicide by f iring a borrowed revolver in to his chest af ter chipping the caps of f his teeth and starting a ceremonial f ire. Benga would f ind work at a local tobacco plant. Depressed over his f ailed prospects. Benga began planning to get back to his beloved Congo. Becoming independent. World War I erupted and made such a trip nearly impossible. the grandson of Samuel Phillips Verner. Af ter entering an orphanage.