Yes You read it right. Human Zoo. If you are like many others out there and have never heard of this before then you are probably puzzled. Lets take a walk down history lane a bit.
Human Zoo - One example of the sad human history of racism — of colonizers seeing themselves as superior to others — is the long history of human zoos that featured Africans and conquered indigenous peoples, putting them on display in much the same way as animals. what’s worse is they happen to be a part of our recent history.
Placed into “natural habitats,” adorned in “traditional dress” and sometimes behind bars, people from “exotic” lands were put on display for a gawking public. All of this to prove the racial theories of the day–that people after all were not alike all over.
It was not too long ago that people from France, Belgium, Germany, and other countries came to visit humans who were locked up in cages. In these zoos, humans were on exhibit in front of a large audience, locked in with animals at a local zoo.
The humans zoos were a large attraction, as 18 million came to visit the World Fair in 1889, held in Paris. Over four hundred Aboriginals and Africans were displayed in front of large crowds of people, stripped down half-naked and thrown into cages.
These zoos were very popular in Europe during the late 1800s until the mid 1900s. North America was not to be outdone, though, as they also got into the human zoo game.
The Dionne quintuplets - The province of Ontario swooped in and took them from their parents, declaring that they had to be protected from exploitation. Then, it exhibited the children three times a day in a human zoo called Quintland, to be raised as a sort of science experiment. Three million visitors came in the 1930s.
A mother and her child are being displayed at a “Negro Village” in Germany. This exhibit was known to be very popular and was even visited by Otto von Bismarck.
In 1906, the amateur anthropologist Madison Grant, who was the head of the New York Zoological Society, put a Congolese pygmy Ota Benga, on display at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The display was in the primate exhibit, and Ota was often made to carry around chimpanzees and other apes.
Women were recruited( and when we say recruited we really mean enslaved) to work in a Paris zoo because of a genetic characteristic known as steatopygia – protuberant buttocks and elongated labia. A 20 year girl named Sarah was the highlight of the exhibition.
Europeans went to the zoo to stare at their curves, amazing that the obsession with the big butt isnt just a new thing, because these women where different they were sexualized, treated like sexual creatures because of the way they were built, they believed that their bodies where unusual and overly sexual and therefore deserve to be treated like sexual creatures.
More than thirty-five thousand men, women and children left their homelands during the high noon of Imperialist Europe and took part in ‘exotic spectacles’ held in major cities like Paris, London and Berlin. Entire families recruited from the colonies were placed in replicas of their villages, given mock traditional costumes and paid to put on a show for spectators. An opportunity to demonstrate the power of the West over its colonies, the expositions became a regular part of international trade fairs and encouraged a taste for exoticism and remote travel.
In 1906, this Congolese replica “factory” was built in Marseille as part of a colonial exposition. Congolese families were also brought over to work in the factory. In February 2004 its remains were burnt down.
The concept of the human zoo has not completely disappeared. A Congolese village was displayed at the Brussels 1958 World's Fair. In April 1994, an example of an Ivory Coast village was presented as part of an African safari in Port-Saint-Père, near Nantes, in France, later called Planète Sauvage.
An African village, intended as a craft and cultural festival, was held in Augsburg Zoo in Germany in July 2005, and was subject to widespread criticism. In August 2005, London Zoo displayed four human volunteers wearing fig leaves (and bathing suits) for four days. In 2007, Adelaide Zoo ran a Human Zoo exhibition which consisted of a group of people who, as part of a study exercise, had applied to be housed in the former ape enclosure by day, but then returned home by night. The inhabitants took part in several exercises, much to the amusement of onlookers, who were asked for donations towards a new ape enclosure. In 2007, pygmy performers at the Festival of Pan-African Music were housed (although not exhibited) at a zoo in Brazzaville, Congo.
Although people didn’t strongly oppose the human zoos in the 1900s, today, the public is flabbergasted that any person in their right mind could take part in such horrifying racism. A human exhibit was replicated in London with black actors who were chained up, which was shut down shortly after opening by anti-racism protestors.