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Ota Benga
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    (circa 1883-March 20, 1916)
    Born in Zaire
    Mbuti pygmy
    4'11 tall
    Rescued from slavery by missionary/businessman Samuel Verner
    Displayed in the anthropological exhibit of the St. Louis World's Fair (1904)
    Returned to Africa for two years, then traveled to New York
    Displayed in the primate house of the Bronx Zoo (September, 1906)
    Admitted to the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn (1906-10)
    Settled in Lynchburg, Virginia (1910-16)
    Committed suicide at age 32
    His teeth were filed to sharp points.
    He was billed as a cannibal and bones were scattered in his cage to emphasize the idea.
    He was displayed with a 'Missing Link' label suggesting Africans were closer to apes than Europeans.
    Several people protested his exhibition not because it was demeaning to blacks but because it promoted 'Darwinism.'
    He responded to taunting by shooting a member of the crowd with a bow and arrow.
    He stole the revolver he used to commit suicide.
    His name was misspelled on his death certificate as 'Otto Bingo.'
    His first wife and two children were killed by soldiers of Leopold II's Force Publique.
    His second wife died from a poisonous snake bite.
    During the St. Louis World's Fair he became good friends with Geronimo, who was on display as 'the Human Tyger.'
    After black clergymen protested his display at the zoo, the New York Times editorialized, 'It is absurd to moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering. The pygmies are very low on the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place from which he could draw no advantage whatever.'
    He was a victim of the 'scientific racism' of the day.
    In Virginia, he was popular with his co-workers and the local children.
    He committed suicide after the outbreak of World War I disrupted his plans to return to the Congo.

Credit: C. Fishel

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