That Time When Africans Were Carnival Exhibits

Throughout the early 20th century, Germany held what was termed a, “Peoples Show,” or Völkerschau. Africans were brought in as carnival or zoo exhibits for passers-by to gawk at. These types of “shows” were popular in cities like Paris, Hamburg, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Milan, Warsaw and even New York. In those cities, these “shows” were called something else.

What were they called?


(Pictured above) An African girl is shown at the 1958 Expo in Brussels, Belgium that featured a ‘Congo Village’ with visitors watching her from behind wooden fences.
(Pictured above) The World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium in 1958 featured this mocked-up Senegalese village. Shows held across the Western world were designed to emphasize the cultural difference between Europeans and people who were deemed primitive.

Black History Quiz Answer…

These shows were called “human zoos.” On average, 200,000 to 300,000 visitors attended the human zoo exhibitions around the world. Carl Hagenbeck of Germany ran exhibits of what he called, “purely natural,” populations, usually East Asian Islanders, but in 1876, he also sent a collaborator to the Sudan to bring back, “wild beasts and Nubians.” The traveling Nubian exhibit was a huge success in cities like Paris, London, and Berlin.

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