Human Zoos is a documentary that sheds light on a disgraceful and largely forgotten chapter of history – the creation of so-called “human zoos” to promote ideas about evolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These zoos consisted of thousands of indigenous people who were imported from remote regions in Africa and displayed for scientific study, exploitation, and entertainment purposes. Even more shockingly, these theories were based on racist prejudices against African Americans and Jews.
The first human zoo was unveiled at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, where visitors were able to observe members of the lowest rung on the evolutionary ladder – between monkeys and fully developed humans. William McGee, an esteemed anthropologist, was among one of the earliest proponents of this theory. His work was heavily influenced by his racism towards African Americans and Jews.
Two years later, a similar exhibit was set up at the Bronx Zoo which saw nearly a quarter million visitors over its duration. This display included natives from Japan, South America and the Philippines as well as Pygmies from the African Congo who were subjected to grueling tests measuring their intelligence, physical features and pain thresholds. Furthermore, some even went so far as to examine the brains of deceased subjects in order to prove their theories.
Human Zoos is an important documentary that serves to remind us just how deeply embedded such prejudice can be within even our most respected institutions such as science. Moreover it demonstrates how these prejudices remain relevant today with white supremacist groups using twisted interpretations of Darwinism to further their agenda. This film is not only educational but also thought provoking – we encourage you all to watch it!