In 1906, the Bronx zoo exhibited an African man alongside monkeys.

A truly disgusting episode from our country’s depressingly racist past:

[…] the zookeepers 
Ota Benga, at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair,...

Ota Benga, at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, showing his sharpened teeth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

convinced Benga [one of the Congolese tribe of Mbuti pygmies] to play with the orangutan in its cage. Benga obliged. Crowds gathered to watch the two monkeying around. The keepers gave Benga his bow and arrow; he shot targets, squirrels, the occasional rat. Bones were scattered about the cage to add a whiff of cannibalism. The keepers goaded Benga to occasionally charge the bars of his enclosure, baring his sharp teeth. Children screamed. Adults were at turns horrified and titillated. “Is that a man?” a visitor asked. A circus owner offered to throw a party for Benga, a French spinster offered to purchase him, and a black manicurist offered to paint his nails. Hornaday posted a sign outside of the cage, displaying Benga’s height, weight, and how he was acquired. “Exhibited each afternoon during September,” it concluded.

One hundred years later, I like to think we’ve come a long way. You can read the full article at the New York Magazine.

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