Black History Month: Exhibits at Pan American Exposition Show Two Sides
The Darkest Africa exhibit at Buffalo’s 1901 Pan American Exposition consisted of 62 people representing a variety of African tribes. They were transported to Buffalo to demonstrate weaponry, handicrafts, songs, and dances. They were promoted as peculiar, childish in habit, and dangerous. Cannibalism, witchcraft, and savagery were portrayed while their actual skills and knowledge were ignored and overlooked.
Opposite Darkest Africa was the “Old Plantation” which supposedly represented the life of African Americans in the Deep South. The Plantation depicted Black American life in a stereotypical manner and promoted the people as jovial, content, and careless. These qualities showed how “good Negroes” could endure hardship and survive despite their racial limitations. Both exhibits were used to underscore the need for white intervention and domination of a race that they saw as clearly inferior and intellectually inept.
Article courtesy of the Buffalo Historical Society