The Black Boy Who Was Showcased in a Zoo Cage

Showcased by humans as if he were an animal

Andrei Tapalaga ✒️
4 min readAug 7, 2020


Little girl showcased in Brussels World Fair, 1958

SSociety kinda stopped to surprise me of how deranged some people are, however, there are certain things that still amaze me to this day such as the story of Ota Benga who was treated by the white people of America as an animal. How could you put a person, let alone a small child in a cage whilst having thousands of people coming from different places to look at the way he lives? He was humans just like all of us, most probably even more human than most of us.

Far from Home

Ota Benga was born in a tribe from Congo known as the Mbuti. A tribe which at the time was quite isolated from the rest of the world and living a happy life for the same fact. However, at the end of the 19th century, King Leopold II of Belgium decided that he wanted to set up a Belgian colony in Congo, around the area where the Mbuti tribe was located. It is said that the Belgians who colonized Congo mass murdered many African natives during the process.

One of the people enslaved was young Ota, who was chosen to work in America. In 1904, Ota Benga was displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair where he was bought by an America “businessman” by the name of Samuel Phillips Verner. Samuel was actually an American slave trader who enslaved native people from Africa for ethnographic spectacles around the world but especially in the United States. He also supplied wild animals from Africa to the zoos all around America at the time.

Samuel actually spent quite some time in Africa, some would say too much time. He originally moved to Africa in 1895 as he wanted to travel and most importantly study various African tribes through their way of living as well as culture. It was said that in 1892, Samuel suffered a mental breakdown which changed him into a different man. Not that this would be any sort of excuse for the way he treated African natives.

Ethnographic Spectacles

In 1905 Ota was delivered to the Bronx Zoo with a couple of Animals that also came from Africa. He was given his own cage and showcased just like an animal. It is said that over a period of 1 year, over 200,000 people came to see Ota at the zoo. Samuel presented Ota as if he…



Andrei Tapalaga ✒️

Avid Writer with invaluable knowledge in Humanity! “You make your own life”