Bata LoBagola

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LoBagola in 1911

Bata Kindai Amgoza ibn LoBagola (1877–1947) was an early 20th-century American impostor and entertainer who presented an exoticized identity as a native of Africa, when in reality he was born Joseph Howard Lee in Baltimore, Maryland. Despite an impoverished start in life and a lack of education, and a series of scandalous arrests related to homosexual activities, mainly involving underage individuals,[1] LoBagola maintained a long and colorful career posing as an African "savage", during which he delivered lectures to many institutions and conducted public debates.

LoBagola; an African Savage's Own Story[edit]

LoBagola published some articles in Scribner's Magazine in 1929 and the publishers A.A. Knopf decided to produce a book version to be titled LoBagola; an African Savage's Own Story, in an attempt to capitalise upon the then-current vogue for "exotic customs" of "places untouched by Europe".[2] Knopf made much of LoBagola being a "savage" from a region of Africa supposedly never visited by white people, though LoBagola described himself as a "Black Jew", claiming that he was descended from people who had fled the Holy Land following the destruction of Herod's Temple.

The book was virtually unedited and came across as a picaresque pseudo-biography, studded with LoBagola's observations of "West African" ways and his adventures in many lands.


LoBagola died in Attica Prison in 1947, with eighteen months of his current sentence remaining, of a pulmonary edema. He was buried in the prison cemetery.[1]

Popular culture[edit]

LoBagola was the subject of a 2016 episode of the Futility Closet Podcast.[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lindfors, Bernth (1999). Africans on Stage: Studies in Ethnological Show Business. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21245-6. 
  2. ^ Hutchinson, George (2006). In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line. Harvard University Press. pp. 349–350. ISBN 0-674-02180-0. 
  3. ^ "Futility Closet 89: An African from Baltimore".