In 1904, Ota Benga, a young Congolese “pygmy” - a person of petite stature - arrived from central Africa and was featured in an anthropology exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, the New York Zoological Gardens displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, 4-foot 11-inch tall man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Spectacle explores the circumstances of Ota Benga’s captivity, the international controversy it inspired, and his efforts to adjust to American life. It also reveals why, decades later, the man most responsible for his exploitation would be hailed as his friend and savior, while those who truly fought for Ota have been banished to the shadows of history.
Pamela Newkirk is a native New Yorker and award-winning journalist who spent ten years working as a reporter and writer before joining the journalism faculty at New York University. Her articles exploring race, media, art, and culture have been published widely, including in The New York Times, The Washinton Post, Artnews, and The Nation. Her first book, Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (1999) won the National Press Club Award for media criticism.
Bahni Turpin is an ensemble member of Cornerstone Theater Company. Based in Los Angeles, Bahni has appeared in numerous television productions as well as films. She is also a yoga instructor, and the founder of SoLA Food Co-op.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xv
Part I Caged
1 Gardens of Wonder 3
2 The Bronx Zoo Monkey House 11
3 Crimes of the Congo 18
4 Hornaday's Folly 24
5 Benga's Brigade 31
6 Fighting City Hall 40
7 Benga Speaks 50
8 Backlash 57
9 Nature's Fury 66
10 Deliverance 73
Part II Captured
11 Samuel Phillips Verner 79
12 Luebo Mission 87
13 Kondola, Kassongo. And Verner's African Treasures 97
Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga 4.8 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating and horrifying story. This is very well written and I highly recommend it.
More than 1 year ago
A sad and fascinating story zoos don't want you to know. Well written and thoughtful.
More than 1 year ago
This story hurt my heart. It speaks to unthinkable ignorance and malicious greed. To capture and humiliate a human being to this level and then promote lie after lie until the truth is obscured is criminal. The story is haunting
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