Stumbled across this sad story of a Congolese man identified as OTA BENGA, 112 Years ago who was bought as a slave and exhibited in Monkey Zoo’s in the United States of America and his sad end after he got frustrated and ended it all.
According to Wikipedia, Benga was a Congolese man, an Mbuti pygmy married with two kids who lived from 1883– March 20, 1916.
The story says, sometime around 1904, young Benga was taken alongside other Africans and paraded at St. Louis, Missouri fair, and in a human zoo exhibit in 1906 at the Bronx Zoo.
Benga had been purchased from African slave traders by the missionary and anthropologist Samuel Phillips Verner, a businessman hunting African people for the exposition.
The exposition was alongside other animals and deposited after in a zoo; their permanent place of abode.
He traveled with Verner to the United States. At the Bronx Zoo, Benga had free run of the grounds before and after he was exhibited in the zoo’s Monkey House.
Except for a brief visit with Verner to Africa after the close of the St. Louis Fair, Benga lived in the United States, mostly in Virginia, for the rest of his life.
Displays of non-white humans as examples of “earlier stages” of human evolution were common in the early 20th century, when racial theories were frequently intertwined with concepts from evolutionary biology. African-American newspapers around the nation published editorials strongly opposing Benga’s treatment. Dr. R. S. MacArthur, the spokesperson for a delegation of black churches, petitioned New York City Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. for his release from the Bronx Zoo.
The mayor released Benga to the custody of Reverend James M. Gordon, who supervised the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn and made him a ward. That same year Gordon arranged for Benga to be cared for in Virginia, where he paid for him to acquire American clothes and to have his teeth capped, so the young man could be more readily accepted in local society.
Benga was tutored in English and began to work. Several years later, the outbreak of World War( I) stopped ship passenger travel and prevented his returning to Africa. Unable to bear life after slavery and an animal, restricted and given conditions,Benga lived a sad life. This, as well as the poor treatment he was subjected to for most of his life, caused Benga to fall into a depression. He committed suicide in 1916 at the age of 32 with a gunshot wounds to his heart.
Throughout his lifetime, he lived as a monkey. Exhibited at fairs and displayed in zoos.
Benga’s wife and two kids were murdered; a murder suspected to be perpetuated by his captors to subdue him.
He was an African whose only sin was his ‘Africanization’ one he had no control over.
Ota Benga and the thousands taken are remebered.