How did anyone ever think this was OK?
Daily Mail – In a shocking chapter in the history of New York City, a small black man weighing 103 lbs. and standing 4 ft 11 inches was used as a human zoo exhibit in a cage with an orangutan and billed as a primitive Congolese pygmy.
The biggest draw of the century brought thousands of gawkers from around the world to view the star attraction initially on display at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 with a tribe of Ainu people from an island north of Japan.
Two years later, the little man was housed in a cage with an orangutan at the New York Zoological Gardens, the crown jewel of New York City, now known as the Bronx Zoo.
Ota Benga, at 23, became the newest resident of the monkey house in the Bronx. He romped with the orangutan, hugging and rolling on the floor in wild wrestling matches while jabbering in a language that the orangutan seemed to understand.
As a decorative custom of his tribe in the Congo, Ota’s teeth had been filed into sharp points – a feature the zoo used to promote him as a wild man who could rip apart his prey.
Shoeless but dressed in modern clothing, Ota entertained the crowd by shooting at a target with a bow and arrow.
For a twenty-five cents admission fee and a five-cent ride on the subway, it was a cheap afternoon thrill and a chance to see ‘a genuine African savage’. Sundays were free.
Read more: Daily Mail