Ota Benga was a pygmy who lived in the Congo. During the early 1900s, White colonists murdered Ota’s family, but Ota survived and was captured. During this time in history, the Theory of Evolution was becoming more accepted and people were eager to find the “missing links.” Ota Benga was thought to be that missing link. In 1904, at the age of 23, he was put on display at the Bronx Zoo and was also displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair as a “savage.” Ota was horribly treated by people who came to see this “missing link,” “savage,” and “lowest form of human life.” Eventually, he was released and taken back to his homeland, but he was not welcomed by his people because he had associated with Whites (remember that it was the White colonists who murdered his friends and family). Ota was brought back to America and eventually placed under the care of some Black ministers. They moved him to Lynchburg, Virginia where he worked on a tobacco farm. Ota became a Christian, but the remainder of his life was filled with depression and isolation. In 1916, he committed suicide.
Ota Benga was not a savage or a missing link. He was fully human but he was treated like an animal. There have been other atrocities committed against people groups in the name of Evolution. Ota’s life and mistreatment is a very sad event in history, and hopefully we can learn that there is value in all human life, regardless of your height, weight, gender, or abilities. You can read more about Ota Benga’s life in this book: Ota Benga.