Africans, Darkies and Negroes: Black Faces at the
Pan American Exposition of 1901, Buffalo, New York

THE NEGRO EXHIBIT

Originally compiled and organized for the Paris Exhibition of 1900, the Negro Exhibit and its history make an intriguing story. W.E.B. DuBois, one of the founders of the Niagara movement, the forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was a primary contributor to the development of this exhibit.  DuBois wanted to show the extraordinary progress of African Americans in the 35 years since the end of slavery.   According to DuBois1 this exhibit had four objectives; to illustrate the:

  1. history of the American Negro 
  2. present condition of the Negro 
  3. education of the Negro; and
  4. literature of the Negro.

In addition to DuBois, Daniel Murray, son of a freedman, was commissioned by the Library of Congress to compile of list of books and pamphlets by Negro authors, as part of the Negro Exhibit.  Thomas J. Calloway, another African American, was assigned as the Special Agent for the exhibit.  In fact, an indication of the strong governmental support for this project is found in the federal appropriation of $15,000 for its development.

Daniel Murray wrote about his effort to compile the literary list in a letter to potential contributors, written on January 22, 1900.  The object in this effort is to secure a copy of every book and pamphlet in existence, by a Negro author, the same to be used in connection with the Exhibit of Negro authorship at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and later placed in the Library of Congress.  Any persons able to furnish books or pamphlets on this list, or having knowledge of such as are not on this list will greatly aid this effort by interesting themselves to make certain that all books or pamphlets are duly represented in the collection.2 To ensure receipt of copies of these manuscripts, Murray offered to pay the postage fees for their shipment.

In addition to a representative sample of the literature collected by Murray, the exhibit also consisted of thirty-two charts, 500 photographs, and numerous maps and plans.3 Other displays were used to tout the educational advances of blacks The education of the Negro is illustrated in the work of five great institutions Fisk, Atlanta, and Howard Universities, and Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes.4 An innovative feature of the exhibit utilized nine model displays to depict the progress of Negroes from slavery to the present day.  The models began with the homeless freedman and ending with the modern brick schoolhouse and its teachers.5 Finally, to illustrate the increase in population of the race and to demonstrate other contributions, there were charts showing population growth, the decline in illiteracy and a record of the more than 350 patents granted to black men since 1834.

DuBois concluded that through the Negro Exhibit, we have thus, it may be seen, an honest, straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves.6

The Negro Exhibit received tremendous recognition from numerous other sources.  It was judged by several international panels during its Paris run and as a result was awarded seventeen medals.  The medals were:  two grand prizes, four gold medals, seven silver medals, two bronze medals and two honorable mentions.7 Thomas J. Calloway, the special agent of the United States Commission to the Paris Exposition, also told a reporter of the Express during a visit to Buffalo in December 1900 that:  This exhibit attracted great attention abroad, so much so that the German government has already led off by asking Mr. Booker T. Washington to send some of the graduates from the Tuskegee Institute to the German colony in Africa.  The English have under consideration the same thing.8

Given the success of this exhibit and its intended goals, is it any wonder that the Black citizens of Buffalo sought to have the Negro Exhibit brought to the Pan-American?

FORWARD TO THE NEGRO EXHIBIT AT THE PAN AM EXPO

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REFERENCES

[1] DuBois, W.E.B.  The Negro Exhibit.  American Monthly Review of Reviews (22), November, 1900.

[2] Murray, Daniel.  Compiler.  Preliminary List of Books and Pamphlets by Negro Authors for Paris     Exposition and Library of Congress.  Washington, D.C., Library of Congress. 1900.

[3] DuBois, W.E.B.  The Negro Exhibit.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Negro Exhibit at Exposition.  Special Agent Calloways Mission.  Wants the Pan-American to Take the Paris Exhibit and Enlarge it.  Express, December 24, 1900.

[8] Ibid.


Co-developers in this project are by Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H. and Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, Ph.D.  The material seen in this section of buffalonian.com is reposted with permission from the website entitled, UNCROWNED QUEENS http://wings.buffalo.edu/uncrownedqueens was launched on February 15, 2001 and began a year-long celebration of the accomplishments of these women, to culminate in a book entitled, African, Darkies and Negroes: Black Faces at the Pan American Exposition of 1901. 

Note:  This history page is a work in progress.  The subject of the Africans and Africans at the Pan American Exposition of 1901 is a very complicated and involved story.  We wanted to at least provide you with a beginning of some of the important matters involving Africans and their descendants in this world-wide event.  References are being updated daily and corrections and additions occur daily as well.  Please be patient with us as we gather together the history of this momentous event.  Thank you.


Copyright 2001 Uncrowned Queens 
This Page has been donated to buffalonian.com by Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H. and Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, Ph.D. No portion of Uncrowned Queens shall be duplicated without expressed written permission of the authors and buffalonian.com.

 

 

 

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