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Gaining Ground: Displaying African-American Progress at the Paris Exposition of 1900

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Abstract:

Enchanting international audiences with displays of new technology, cutting-edge science, and visions of the future always tops the list of goals of a World’s Fair. This was especially the case in Paris at the 1900 Exposition Universelle , which convinced over 50 million onlookers as they strolled through various pavilions and attractions that they were literally stepping into the twentieth century. But just 40 years removed from slavery, where did African Americans fit into this storyline? At the American Negro Exhibit, the message—and picture—was clear: African Americans have accomplished remarkable economic progress since their emancipation and are accompanying the rest of “civilization” into the next century.

World’s Fairs, historically, reached out to audiences of millions. Unfortunately, these fairs often showcased scientific racism with popular human zoos and anthropological displays casting darker-skinned peoples as “savage” or “uncivil.” The Paris Exposition was no different. But by linking human rights, issues of citizenship, and the economic success of African Americans, the Negro Exhibit in Paris provided a reality check to fairgoers by countering the negative depictions of blacks that frequently dominated these expositions.

This paper will address the award-winning efforts of Thomas Calloway and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others, who did not simply speak or write about black economic equality and achievement, but showed it with the Negro Exhibit. Analyzing its photographs of colleges, factories, students, businessmen and women, along with its charts of financial and employment statistics emphasizing post-emancipation accomplishments, I will argue that the American Negro Exhibit showed visitors, especially Europeans, what black success looked like.
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435060_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Tickle, Ryan. "Gaining Ground: Displaying African-American Progress at the Paris Exposition of 1900" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435060_index.html>

APA Citation:

Tickle, R. E. "Gaining Ground: Displaying African-American Progress at the Paris Exposition of 1900" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435060_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: Enchanting international audiences with displays of new technology, cutting-edge science, and visions of the future always tops the list of goals of a World’s Fair. This was especially the case in Paris at the 1900 Exposition Universelle , which convinced over 50 million onlookers as they strolled through various pavilions and attractions that they were literally stepping into the twentieth century. But just 40 years removed from slavery, where did African Americans fit into this storyline? At the American Negro Exhibit, the message—and picture—was clear: African Americans have accomplished remarkable economic progress since their emancipation and are accompanying the rest of “civilization” into the next century.

World’s Fairs, historically, reached out to audiences of millions. Unfortunately, these fairs often showcased scientific racism with popular human zoos and anthropological displays casting darker-skinned peoples as “savage” or “uncivil.” The Paris Exposition was no different. But by linking human rights, issues of citizenship, and the economic success of African Americans, the Negro Exhibit in Paris provided a reality check to fairgoers by countering the negative depictions of blacks that frequently dominated these expositions.

This paper will address the award-winning efforts of Thomas Calloway and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others, who did not simply speak or write about black economic equality and achievement, but showed it with the Negro Exhibit. Analyzing its photographs of colleges, factories, students, businessmen and women, along with its charts of financial and employment statistics emphasizing post-emancipation accomplishments, I will argue that the American Negro Exhibit showed visitors, especially Europeans, what black success looked like.


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