This chapter examines the role African Americans had in the 1900 Paris Exposition. It focuses on “The American Negro Exhibit,” set up by prominent African American activists and intellectuals, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and Thomas J. Calloway, in order to represent the progress and achievements of blacks in the US in the three decades following the end of the Civil War. Based on research carried out in the Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection and the Booker T. Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, the Archives Nationales and the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, this chapter highlights the ways in which the 1900 Paris Exposition became a way for Afircan Americans of challenging the forms of racism against blacks and colonized people carried out in the so-called “native villages,” and more broadly in society, and establish new forms of solidarity and political activism, domestically and internationally. At the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in 1893 in Chicago, African Americans had already criticized the US government for denying them fair representations, through the pamphlet, The Reason Why the Colored American is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition. In 1900, they demanded the right to be assigned a space where to set up “an exhibit of the progress of the American negroes in education and industry.” “The American Negro Exhibit” presented African Americans’ success in education, literature, industry and commerce, by making wide use of photography, charts and graphs. Its main aim was to challenge the idea that African Americans were “a mass of rapists, ready to attack every white woman exposed, and a drug in civilized society,” and highlighted the achievements of the so-called New Negroes. The images showed middle-class, respectable urban blacks, members of a generation that had not experienced slavery, while at the same time emphasizing the emergence of new forms of racism and violence in the South. “The American Negro Exhibit” served as a turning point in the history of African American activism. Indeed, in the context of the 1900 Paris Exposition, Washington and Du Bois grew further apart, offering profoundly different understandings of race relations in the US and globally. On the one hand, Washington advanced the idea that the forms of racial integration promoted by the Tuskegee Institute should serve as a model for African colonies, uplifting Africans through work and discipline. On the other hand, in one of the plates displayed at the exhibition, Du Bois introduced the notion that, “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,” a statement he later presented at the First Pan-African Conference, held in London in July 1900. For both leaders, the 1900 Paris Exposition allowed for the establishment of new transnational alliances with activists in Europe and Africa, which flourished after the First World War.

Drawing a Global Color Line: ‘The American Negro Exhibit’ at the 1900 Paris Exposition

BINI, ELISABETTA
2014-01-01

Abstract

This chapter examines the role African Americans had in the 1900 Paris Exposition. It focuses on “The American Negro Exhibit,” set up by prominent African American activists and intellectuals, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and Thomas J. Calloway, in order to represent the progress and achievements of blacks in the US in the three decades following the end of the Civil War. Based on research carried out in the Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection and the Booker T. Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, the Archives Nationales and the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, this chapter highlights the ways in which the 1900 Paris Exposition became a way for Afircan Americans of challenging the forms of racism against blacks and colonized people carried out in the so-called “native villages,” and more broadly in society, and establish new forms of solidarity and political activism, domestically and internationally. At the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in 1893 in Chicago, African Americans had already criticized the US government for denying them fair representations, through the pamphlet, The Reason Why the Colored American is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition. In 1900, they demanded the right to be assigned a space where to set up “an exhibit of the progress of the American negroes in education and industry.” “The American Negro Exhibit” presented African Americans’ success in education, literature, industry and commerce, by making wide use of photography, charts and graphs. Its main aim was to challenge the idea that African Americans were “a mass of rapists, ready to attack every white woman exposed, and a drug in civilized society,” and highlighted the achievements of the so-called New Negroes. The images showed middle-class, respectable urban blacks, members of a generation that had not experienced slavery, while at the same time emphasizing the emergence of new forms of racism and violence in the South. “The American Negro Exhibit” served as a turning point in the history of African American activism. Indeed, in the context of the 1900 Paris Exposition, Washington and Du Bois grew further apart, offering profoundly different understandings of race relations in the US and globally. On the one hand, Washington advanced the idea that the forms of racial integration promoted by the Tuskegee Institute should serve as a model for African colonies, uplifting Africans through work and discipline. On the other hand, in one of the plates displayed at the exhibition, Du Bois introduced the notion that, “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,” a statement he later presented at the First Pan-African Conference, held in London in July 1900. For both leaders, the 1900 Paris Exposition allowed for the establishment of new transnational alliances with activists in Europe and Africa, which flourished after the First World War.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/2810152
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact