Human Zoos tells the story of how thousands of indigenous peoples were put on public display in America in the early decades of the twentieth century. Often touted as “missing links” between man and apes, these native peoples were harassed, demeaned, and jeered at. Their public display was arranged with the enthusiastic support of the most elite members of the scientific community, and it was promoted uncritically by America’s leading newspapers. The documentary also tells the story of a courageous group of African-American ministers who tried to stop one such ‘Human Zoo’ in New York City. The documentary features Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Pamela Newkirk, author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga.
In an era where people are sensitive to racism, this story does not get the attention it should because it would impact the fashionable cause of keeping Darwinism in the school system. Here, as with eugenics, a look at what Darwinism naturally does by way of shaping public attitudes is entirely unhelpful to that cause.
See also: Do racial assumptions prevent recognizing Homo erectus as fully human?