Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo

ISBN 10: 0312082762 / ISBN 13: 9780312082765
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Synopsis: An account of the exploitation of Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, describes how, in 1906, a missionary in Africa brought Benga to the United States, placed him on display at the World's Fair, and eventually caged him at the Bronx Zoo.

From Kirkus Reviews: An affecting story of an ugly instance of Western hubris, as told to writer Blume by the grandson of the man responsible for bringing Ota Benga, a pygmy eventually placed in a zoo, to America. Like so many others at the end of the 19th century, Samuel Phillips Verner was caught up in the enthusiasm for science, especially Darwinism and anthropology, which seemed to promise that a tidy scientific ranking could be imposed not only on plants and animals but on races as well. To this end, Verner, originally a Presbyterian missionary in the Congo, was commissioned to supply the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis with a band of pygmies for the anthropology exhibit. These pygmies--including Benga--were to join the famed Native American leader Geronimo, a Patagonian Indian, and other ``permanent wildmen of the world, the races that had been left behind.'' But Verner himself was a man of considerable complexity. Determined, like his hero Robinson Crusoe, to escape the safe ``middle station'' in life, he was also as a southerner haunted by racial guilt. He developed a close and warm friendship with Benga, who asked to stay on after the Fair was over. Delivered by Verner to the Natural History Museum in New York, where he soon became ``restless,'' Benga was then transferred to the Bronx Zoo. There, his presence in the same cage as an ape, along with a description identifying him as ``The African Pygmy Exhibited Each Afternoon,'' outraged the media and the public. Verner, congenitally broke, agreed to have local black clergy house Benga in a black orphanage. Later, the pygmy was moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, where, though he became a respected member of local black society, memories of his African past haunted him. He finally committed suicide in 1916. A somber cautionary tale, well told, of human ambition, arrogance, and ignorance unchecked. (Forty illustrations--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Title: Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo
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Bradford, Phillips Verner, Blume, Harvey
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ISBN 10: 0312082762 ISBN 13: 9780312082765
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Book Description 1992, first edition. Africa, Pygmies. St. Martins Press. 281p, very good - fine boards and dust jacket. Bookseller Inventory # 1660032412

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