The Story of a Congo Boy who was Caged in US Animal Zoo In 1904
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Ota Benga, a young African boy, was abducted from Congo in 1904 and transported to the USA. Upon arrival, he was put in a monkey zoo and shown along with them.
He became famous among the white folk who go to see him by 1906. The New York Times published a story on a young African man on September 9, 1906, who was exhibited in the monkey house in the largest zoo in New York. The article called him a "pygmy" and they used the headline "Bushman Shares a Cage with Bronx Park Apes" The paper reported that more than 500 white people gathered with their kids that day at Benga to laugh and jeer. Reports say he was 23 years old but still had a boy's body.
The September 9 outing was a good one for the zookeepers, as they had a large turnout. They expected that the next ones would be bigger, so they moved the boy to a much bigger cage where he was joined by an orangutan called Dohang. As the crowd gathered and made him jest, he sat still and looked at them in amazement. He is curious about how people could be so cruel to take him from his home and treat him like an animal.
It was announced that more than 220,000 people had gone to the Zoo to see Benga by the end of September of 1906. Many would ask in their right sense and morality what was so satisfying about caging a young boy and molesting him. But no matter how much one wonders, one would still conclude that there is no consciousness or soul in White America. Ota Benga's inhumane and satanic show began spreading all over the world. But as expected, it was endorsed by the Caucasian world, while many Black ministers, scholars, and individuals were angered at the insult to put a Black man in a cage with animals.
On the afternoon of September 10th, 1906, a few Black ministers met for an emergency meeting on the matter at Harlem 's Mount Olivet Baptists Church. It was led by the then-popular Reverend James H Gordon, hailed by the Brooklyn Eagles as "one of the country's most eloquent Negroes." After a few words, he and the other ministers headed to the train station, boarded a train and went to the Bronx Zoo, where Benga had been imprisoned with animals. Once they arrived they find Benga with the Orangutan, Dohang, in the enclosure.
We attempted to connect with him, but he was not in a mood to talk to someone or to respond to them. He was wearing a sad face and just looked at them. This made them increasingly furious. He questioned the zookeepers, and Gordon said so fuming. "We are frank enough to say that we do not like this exhibition with monkeys of one of our races. Our race, we think, is sufficiently depressed, without an ape showing one of us. We think we deserve to be called divine, with souls.
But nothing was relevant to the Zoo authorities that the ministers said. William Temple Hornaday, the zoo director, and curator, bravely defended their actions, saying it had been done based on research.
He said "I'm merely giving the show as an ethnological exhibit," he said. He insisted stubbornly that their dehumanization of Benga was in line with the practice of "human exhibitions" of Africans in Europe, breezily evoking the unquestionable status of the continent as the paragon of culture and civilization on earth.
The ministers pressed their grievances and disappointments harder, but Hornaday remained unrepentant. He announced the show would proceed until it was requested to stop by the Zoological Society. He knew he had the Zoological Society's backing and many highly placed officials in government, so there was no way they could ask him to stop.He was at the time the President's personal friend, Theodore Roosevelt.
Later that day, the ministers failed to release young Benga, so they left in frustration and vowed to make a case for Benga at the New York Mayor's office. But what they didn't know was that a lot of white-America didn't feel guilty to see a black boy in a cage. That's why when New York Times employees learned about what the ministers were doing, they were furious and released an unethical letter – something a media house shouldn't do.
The New York Times reported the following: "We do not completely grasp all of the feelings felt by others in the matter," the paper said in an anonymous editorial. "According to our knowledge, Ota Benga is a typical specimen of his race or tribe, with a brain as developed as is its other members. If they are considered examples of the delayed growth, and closer to the anthropoid apes than the other African savages, or if they are treated as the degenerate descendants of ordinary Negroes, they are of equal interest to the student of ethnology and can be studied with benefit. "They said it was impossible to imagine the pain or embarrassment of Benga. "Pygmies are very low on a human scale, and the argument that Benga would be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school will be a place of torment for him ... The notion that people are all alike except because they had or missed opportunities to get book education is far obsolete now."
By the same year 1906, September 16, the zookeepers released Benga from his cage and allowed him to walk around the zoo. The rangers kept an eye on him and guarded him. To the young and unhappy Benga the day has been overwhelming. That day around 40,000 people were at the park, and they all followed Benga wherever he went. They 'd be circling, poking, and making him crash. He kicked some of the people in the crowd at one point when the crowd seemed to be threatening him. Three men fought to hold him down, before returning him to the monkey cage.
In a letter of complaint on Monday 17 September 1906, the zookeeper, Hornaday, said the following: "I regret saying Ota Benga has become rather unmanageable," he said. "He was so extensively humiliated in the newspapers, and so often in the public eye, we shouldn't punish him; for if we do, we will be automatically accused of cruelty, abuse, etc., etc. I'm sure you're going to appreciate that. "Hornaday complained that" the kid is doing whatever he pleases, so it's completely difficult to control him.He showed consternation that Benga threatened to bite the keepers whenever they tried to get him back to the house of monkeys. The star attraction Hornaday had turned into a liability. "I don't see any way out of the problem," he wrote, "except that he should be taken away."
The pressure continued to mount in the zoo around the Benga state. Many people have reported that the zoo has taken money to allow people to enter the boy's cage. So, an investigator was sent out from the city controller 's office on September 26. His reports illuminated why Benga should be safe. There were further newspaper articles decrying Benga's use as an animal exhibit. And Benga himself started battling through and everyone who came close to him. He would kick and bite and even use a knife once to intimidate the keepers.
With more street protests and newspaper publications talking against the situation of Benga, he was released on September 28th, 1906 by the Zoo curator and keeper. He was quietly taken away without notice from the media. Minister Gordon had moved him to an orphanage in Weeksville, Brooklyn. The orphanage was renamed Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, and the minister himself was run m.
Gordon gave Benga a space for himself and he had his freedom to do whatever he wanted. Gordon said in an interview that "He looks like a very dwarfed boy of extraordinary friendliness and curiosity ... So our strategy is this: We 're going to treat him as a tourist. We've given him a room for himself, where he can smoke if he chooses. "They've been thinking him how to speak English and he's learned the days.
Gordon sent Benga to a Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, Virginia, after spending some years in the orphanage. The school was an all-Black school that was thinking Blacks what the schools of White Theology had refused to teach them. Benga and the community grew. On many occasions, he would lead the young boys into the nearby forest to teach them how to make bows and arrows, and hunt. He seemed happy but he got withdrawn as the weeks went by. He was depressed, and always spoke of going home.He 'd make a large fire, and dance alone around it, singing his native songs, weeping in sorrow.
From frustration on March 19, 1916, he left the house, sneaked into a battered gray shed across his house, and stayed there. He took a pistol that he kept there before morning, and shot himself in the head.
Often America's crimes against the Black Man are too heavy on the heart to let go of. Many times we have questioned why human beings should treat fellow human beings this way, but we have learned that this is mental conditioning.
The Caucasian race has been taught they are better than the Black race. And that education came from the highest in society: the pope, the bishops, the doctors, the scientists who framed all kinds of theories to prove the sub-humanity of the black man. So the world was then ripe for the Black man's genocide and humiliation after years and decades of training the white man for racism and the Black man's subjugation. Killers, robbers, looters, and criminals were assisted by European and American governments, thus siegeing Africa and every other indigenous Black region of the world.
And while they were busy robbing, murdering, and destroying old Black cultures, there was nothing felt by the people who would have any sympathy. Of course who feels sympathy when killing a supposed "animal-man?" Nobody. Their religions and churches backing slavery. Their God approved of slavery. This was backed by their fathers and leading leaders. So their wickedness was righteous before the eyes of God and of man.
Source: Liberty Writers Africa