Talk:Ota Benga

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Former featured article candidate Ota Benga is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
May 26, 2009 Featured article candidate Not promoted
June 20, 2009 Peer review Reviewed
Current status: Former featured article candidate
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Comment by Outriggr[edit]

Who is Gordon? "Hornaday caved in under the pressure and released Ota Benga to Gordon, who placed him in the Howard Colored Children's Orphan Asylum sponsored by his church." Lapaz

OK, I answered that one. Now who is Moses? Outriggr 01:03, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

White washed and incomplete account[edit]

The article has a tone of Darwinism and I'd suggest reading more accounts to get the real story of Oto Benga and the other's put on display. For example, HE didn't have his teeth drilled down, his master had it done to give a greater "animalistic" effect. In addition, he was forced to do tricks with the monkeys and orangutans they placed in the cage to live with him after he was on display at the World's Fair. He was assaulted constantly by the whites visiting the Bronx zoo. Between King Leopold, who wiped out over 10 million in the Congo, and Americans, Oto Benga didn't have a chance. He couldn't afford a ticket home, spent time wandering around America, after the zoo kicked him out for fighting back, saying it was too much of a liability to keep him. He killed himself because he couldn't return home. He'd been married 2-3 times, according to the account you read. I sure wish I could read a non biased and complete account of this poor man's life.

Responding to this unsigned comment - I completely disagree. The article, if anything, has a sympathetic tone, and I have no idea what you mean by "a tone of Darwinism" and "white washed [sic]". Given the nature of the topic, there are going to be varying accounts regarding Benga's specific experiences in the zoo, but nothing you have mentioned is in contrast to the general presentation in the article of Benga's experiences. Incidentally—fix it yourself to prove the article wrong, if you feel it's wrong. Outriggr 16:22, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
The article is fairly accurate from what I know. The details of abuse you mention should be added providing you source them. Which you can as I think/know what you're saying is true. One aspect that's viewed with a certain discomfort is that I believe many of the African Americans who wanted to save him also viewed him as a child, hence they put him in an orphanage, and I believe felt they had to convert him. In that era many blacks often had a surprisingly negative view of Africa and I remember reading how some blacks once considered "African" or even "African American" to be a kind of racial slur. I'm largely meaning in the period before UNIA and Pan-Africanism gained importance, which might be too early to be relevant here.--T. Anthony 07:15, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

I have begun trying to improve and reference this article. The objector above, for example, will find a reference contesting his claim that Benga's "master" filed his teeth down. I have incorporated some information on the Belgian/Congolese army that slaughtered Benga's village.

Also, one user added a {disputed} tag to the page, while leaving no comment as to why; this was recently and reasonably removed by another editor. I would have otherwise. (FWIW, I am not sanctioning the nonsensical, untrue title of this section, "White washed and incomplete account", by writing under it!) –Outʀiggʀ 00:33, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

The information regarding his teeth being filed down by his master is totally inaccurate. This was a practice done in Africa, particularly among the Congoese men. It is seen as a act of manhood, not degredation. This is found in a LOT of scholarly texts. I am currently on a museum working on expanded knowledge on Benga. [[User:Floronic|Floronic] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:28, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

NPR story[edit]

NPR story I'm not that interested hacking this article but I heard this on the radio and it has stuff not in the article. --Gbleem 23:11, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Intro Paragraph - what the heck?[edit]

"The exhibit was intended to promote the theory that humans evolved from primates, as well as eugenics, and scientific racism."

The refference for this claim is a book which I can't verify, and it doesn't even list a page number. I therefore suspect that this is a POV claim. The reason? It says "humans evolved from primates". There is no such theory. Humans still ARE primates. There is no theory that we "evolved from primates", because we never STOPPED being primates. I assume this sentence was added as POV, maybe by a disgruntled creationist. It's definately "scientific racism", but the "evolved from primates" sentence makes it clear that who ever wrote that sentence doesn't understand evolution. Therefore I removed that part of the sentence. If the source is real, than it should say that it was intended to promote "the common descent of humans and other apes", not "the theory that humans evolved from primates". If there is a verifiable source, feel free to add a corrected version. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:57, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Totally agree that the wording needs to be changed, and I should have caught that earlier. --Newsroom hierarchies (talk) 06:33, 8 June 2008 (UTC)
I also agree with the above... I removed "theroy of.." with "Human..." as to make it more specific. Larger concept of evolution I don't believe was the focus, but only the 'progression' of human evolution. Dinkytown (talk) 09:30, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Should their be some reference to the way modern creationists such as Harun Yahya at [1] use the treatment of Ota Benga in their attempt to discredit evolution? --Hugh7 (talk) 21:13, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Smith reference[edit]

Would whoever added Raw Deal: Horrible and Ironic Stories of Forgotten Americans mind adding the page numbers? No preview is available on Google Books or I'd add it myself. Thanks. Recognizance (talk) 23:21, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

I added that reference, but no longer own the book. It was "lent" to a Horrible and Ironic friend. However, Ota Benga has his own chapter, as do all the Horrible and Ironic stories, so the hypothetical Reference Hunter (I've never spotted him yet, presuming that you are asking in an article-maintenance capacity and not in a I-desperately-need-to-confirm-this-reference capacity) will have no trouble locating the information within that chapter, I'm sure. –Outriggr § 06:28, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
The only capacity I was asking in was a for-the-sake-of-completeness one. It's not a big issue. :) Recognizance (talk) 21:32, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Critical mass[edit]

I think I'm getting close to being done. My main objectives are to finish The Pygmy in the Zoo in case there are any details to add, and possibly a little more from Parezo and Fowler. It's humorous to see the scribbles on the images in the name of copyright claims given their public domain status though. A better quality St Louis photo would have been nice. Recognizance (talk) 19:45, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

With regret, Mr Benga: you've got to jump through many more hoops before we put you on main page display. Outriggr (talk) 03:57, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

My goal is to make the encyclopedia more complete rather than to see my favourite subject appear on the main page or amass gold stars on my user page. Clever choice of words though. I think once I finish up in Ostend I may work on Filibuster (military). Working my way through a biography of William Henry Sheppard too. Fascinating man. Recognizance (talk) 04:28, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
A worthy goal -- the greatest contributors to the project seem to go relatively unnoticed. (Nobody's inviting apparent polymaths like user:wetman or user:johnbod to display something on the home page. Their work on WP is probably more significant than the combined usernames on ANI at the mo!) You're on your way! Outriggr (talk) 04:47, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
You lie. User:Johnbod has "The 100 DYK Medal" on his page. But we're getting a little off topic I suppose. One of the ANI types you alluded to will probably be along shortly, unless your status as a wiki-deity wards them off. Recognizance (talk) 05:40, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
It will. And you're right, I did feel like I'd exaggerated after I clicked through to the user pages I linked. Examples poor, but point still stands. After all, if I could give you good examples, my point wouldn't stand. My inability to provide you with examples of relatively unnoticed, very productive editors is proof that very productive editors are unnoticed.
What is your former user name? (haha) Outriggr (talk) 06:03, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
Given the brouhaha about ArbCom secret/former identities, I shan't take any chances with wrong impressions. This is my my first and (so far) only account; I was even silly enough to display on my userpage that I sometimes edited from public locations, rather than create a separate account.
BTW, you inspired me to start compiling Rev. Sheppard's first-draft bio ahead of schedule. Once I'm comfortable with it, I can get my first DYK and build one of those little shrines on my userpage. After I figure out where to submit it that is. Recognizance (talk) 06:40, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Interestingly, when I put "Ota Benga: A Pygmy in America" into Google, the third result is a BitTorrent link. I guess the little man's story proved popular. I have no idea if this counts as a reliable source, but it was the only link I could find that mentioned Brazil. (Edit: Without scraping Wikipedia, that is...) Recognizance (talk) 17:22, 29 May 2009 (UTC)


Per Bradford and Blume (don't ask me for page numbers, I don't have the book anymore) Ota Benga was one of the few members of his tribe to survive the attack. There were a couple others who were in slavery, but for all intents and purposes, he was the last of his kind. See here in Adams where it says:

As was the case with his African contemporary, the fragments of Ishi's story provide less satisfying evidence about an individual life than about how racial freaks are made at the seams where institutions, professionals, and their publics inevitably meet. Ishi, like Ota Benga, was "the last of his tribe," a Yahi Indian in his mid-fifties...

So if you want the caption to instead read that he was portrayed as the last member or something similar, that's fine. But Mbuti is an ethnographic designation; his individual tribe consisted of less than 100 people probably. Recognizance (talk) 19:58, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

In fact, since the issue is semantics, I crossed out where I said "last of his kind" since that's too ambiguous. In all seriousness though, I can see where the confusion came from. Recognizance (talk) 20:10, 15 July 2009 (UTC)


In the intro paragraph, the article suggests Ota Benga committed suicide with a shotgun. A later paragraph suggests he ended his life by means of a pistol... Anybody know which is correct? This should be verified and changed. --Diyforlife (talk) 09:53, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

No shit. I came here to say the same thing. -- Bill Cosby.

Stupid Darwin[edit]

The western world was in need to prove their eligibility of superior among all life forms in the planet, they think to use uncivilized people as they are using animals.

at that time they were astonished of the civilization in the Muslim, Eastern, and South America land. thus, Darwin was an idiot and human was Created as human and not evolved from something else. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:07, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

Sheesh, read up a little on Charles Darwin (hardly a stupid fellow) and Social Darwinism (a rationale for exploitation which stole Darwin's name but was not advocated by him). Infrogmation (talk) 16:26, 26 April 2012 (UTC)


There is a sentence in the "Bronx Zoo" section of this wiki which says "In response to his general situation and to verbal and physical prods from the crowds, his behavior became at first mischievous and then somewhat violent." This is the first time I'm seeing the behaviour of an adult male to be described as 'mischievous'. It comes across as racist and dehumanizing. So please, replace the word with something that applies to adult humans or if it was a quote from some source, put it in quote and mention the source. Boygamer10 (talk) 21:00, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

I tried to fix this just now, but someone needs to fact-check. All my books are boxed up and I can't remember whether it was the museum or the zoo where Benga suggested he be employed as a "janitor" to create the impression of propriety but referred in my edit to the Museum of Natural History as "his employer[]". I do know that there's a cite for this in Spiro's Defending the Master Race and it should be in the index. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:10, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on Ota Benga. Please take a moment to review my edit. If necessary, add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether. I made the following changes:

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Question? Archived sources still need to be checked

Cheers.—cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 02:53, 10 January 2016 (UTC)