In the late 1800s to well into the 1900s, Europeans created “human zoos” in cities like Paris; Hamburg, Germany; Antwerp, Belgium; Barcelona, Spain; London; Milan; Warsaw, Poland; St Louis; and New York City. These were popular human exhibits where whites went to watch Black people who were on display. The Black people were usually forced to live behind gates and in cages similar to animals in a zoo today.
Some of the Black people were kidnapped and brought to be exhibited in the human zoos. Many of them died quickly, some within a year of their captivity. A large number of visitors attended these exhibitions in each city daily. For example, the Parisian World Fair featured a human zoo that exhibited Black people, and 34 million people were drawn to the exhibition in just six months.
Below are several photos showing the horrible reality of Black people who were forced to live in human zoos.
This is a “Peoples Show” in Brussels, Belgium, where the young Black girl is fed by the white spectators.
Congolese pygmy Ota Benga was on display at the Bronx Zoo in New York City in 1906. He was forced to carry around chimpanzees and other apes.
One of the many human zoos in France.
A 20-year-old girl from South Africa known as Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman was recruited to work in a Paris zoo because of a genetic characteristic known as steatopygia — protuberant buttocks and elongated labia. Whites went to the zoo to look at her buttocks and at other naked Black women with the same shape.
This is one of France’s many “Negro Villages.” It was said the village would often display Blacks to dehumanize them and compare them to animals.
This is another “Negro Village” in France. It was called “The World Fair,” where nude or semi-nude Black women and children were presented in cages.
Black Africans are shown participating in archery in 1904 in St Louis at an event whites organized called the “Savage Olympics Exhibition.”
A “Negro village” similar to PT Barnum’s exhibition of Joice Heth, an enslaved African-American who was blind and almost completely paralyzed. Barnum lied to the visitors saying she was the 160-year-old nurse of President George Washington.
Pygmies were made to dance during numerous exhibitions to entertain visitors at zoos in both Germany and England.
This is a Somalia village exhibit at Luna Park in St. Petersburg, Russia.
A Black African mother is shown with her child in a “Negro Village.”
At the Parisian World Fair, this was a part of the 1931 exhibit that was so successful that it drew 34 million people that year.
A Black mother and her child at a “Negro Village” in Germany. This exhibit was known to be very popular and was even visited by conservative statesman Otto von Bismarck.