Many American students have been taught about the landmark 1900 World’s Fair held for 7 months in Paris and attended by more than 48 million people. Far less known is the Exhibit of American Negroes, coordinated by three African American men — scholar W.E.B. Dubois, assistant librarian at the Library of Congress Daniel Murray, and lawyer Thomas Calloway. The purpose of the exhibit, which was housed at the World’s Fair, was to showcase African American life, achievement and contributions to society. Dubois described it as “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. In a way this marks an era in the history of the Negroes of America.”
The exhibit included more than 500 photos as well as black scholarly work, official paperwork displaying black inventions and documentation on the progress of blacks since the Civil War.
The exhibit came at a difficult time for African Americans. Slavery had been abolished just 35 years earlier, and lynchings were at an all-time high. Not surprisingly it was largely ignored by mainstream American newspapers. Nonetheless it is a fascinating picture of African American life at the turn of the century.
Wow! Ladies, what are your thoughts? You can see more photos and documents here.