Ota Benga and the horrible history of slavery in the US

Have you ever heard about the human being exhibited in the Bronx zoo in 1906? it happened.. and it was one of the most horrible dates in NYC and the whole of US as a nation .

Ota Benga was born in 1883 in Congo free state ( DRC today ) . he was a part of the Mbuti tribe in Congo . Ota Benga was brought to the united states by american explorer and businessman samuel phillips verner who traveled to congo under contract from louisiana purchase exposition to capture and bring back an assortment of pygmies to be part of an exhibition. Verner found Benga when he was traveling to Batwa . he later bought him from a slave traders for a pound of salt and a bolt of cloth . where he later on lied and claimed that he saved Benga from cannibals .

Verner took Benga with him back to the US after spending couple of weeks together in Batwa. but due to malaria illness Verner wasn’t able to be at the exhibition world fair with Benga.

When verner recovered he took Benga to the American Museum of natural history where he offered him a place to stay and a job as performer . Benga wasn’t comfortable with his situation which made him suffer very bad depression along with Verner going bankrupt to the point where he lost housing for Benga . Verner didn’t stop there yet he took him to the Bronx Zoo in 1906 where the Zoo Director William Homaday initially enlisted Benga to help maintain the animal habitats. but soon as he noticed visitors are giving more attention to Benga then the animals he decided to exhibit him in the monkey house where he can hang his hammock and shoot his sparrow at targets .

Many Organizations and civil rights union were opposing the horrific situation of Benga a young man from congo finding himself in a cage with the monkeys .

after alot of pressure the Zoo finally let Benga out he was taken the oprhange house in brooklyn but due to unwelcome press Benga was relocated to Lynchburg Virginia where he lived with the McCray family so that he could be a part of society . he received tutoring from Poet Anne spencer in order to improve his english . But Benga’s depression made it impossible for him to learn he later discontinued his studies and started working at Lynchburg tobacco factory along with a plan to return to Africa .

But after World War 1 began ships to Africa were impossible to sail due to the horrific situation the world was going through . Benga’s depression was at it’s highest back then with his hopes for a return to africa has faded .unfortunately he ended his life by shooting himself in the chest .

Benga was a real story of many if not thousands of innocent Africans who were brought to western lands and be used as if they’re far away from being humans . Benga is one of the people who shall always be written in the dark history of slave trade of rich men in the past .



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Mahmoud Drira

Mahmoud Drira

entrepreneur, content writer, comedian