Were African Americans Alienated?

Racism at the World's Fair:

The World's Columbian Expostion

The World's Columbian Exposition was a celebration the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's landing in America. On April 25, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed an act that designated Chicago as the site of the exposition. Although dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892, the fairgrounds were not opened to the public until May 1, 1893. The exposition closed on October 30, 1893. Forty-six nations participated in the exposition, which cost $28,340,700. There were 25,836,073 admissions to the fair, 21,480,141 of which were paid. The admission price ranged from free to $0.50 depending on age. There were over 250,000 displays ranging from milk sterilization machines to works of art presented by nearly 70,000 individuals. The most popular exhibits sparked a sense of curiosity rather than the more serious displays of technological advancements. For example, a seventy-foot-high tower of light bulbs in the Electricity Building. In addition to these exhibits, the Midway Plaisance was an area for the more light-hearted componets of the fair.



During the Colombian Exposition, there was a special, themed day for nearly every day of the fair. Most of them were dedicated to certain locations and cultures. For example, July 13 was South Dakota Day. On August 25, Colored People's Day, also known as "Darkies' Day" was one of the few days devoted to a race. Planners approved this day after African Americans' demands to play a role in the planning of the fair. Even though African Americans were allowed to visit the fair, they felt very unwelcome. Special exhibits were formed to display cultural achievements and advancements. "African villages," according to Frederick Douglass, had a very different purpose: "to exhibit the Negro as a repulsive savage."



Big image

Relevance Today

The creation of "Darkies' Day" as part of the Colombian Exposition created a sense of disconnect between African Americans and the rest of the fair goers.This separation is still seen and very obvious today. The map above depicts the concentration of African-Americans in Chicago neighborhoods from 2005 to 2009. As you can see, the highest concentrations of backs are in large areas to the south and west. The "South side" and "West side" are known predominantly black regions of the city. In northern Chicago, there are little to no African American presence. This map proves that there is still a racial separation between African-Americans and the rest of Chicagoans over 100 years after the World's Fair.More recently, a Huffington post describes Chicago as the "Most Segregated City in America." "Over the last decade, Chicago had the second-largest declines in dissimilarity and isolation among this top-ten group (after Houston), which illustrates a more natural trend where more segregated areas had the sharpest declines in segregation," the report says of the ten most populated cities in the country.



Works Cited

Bogira, Steve. "Separate, Unequal, and Ignored ." Chicago Reader. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014.


"Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events:1890s." Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events:1890s. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.


"Darkies' Day at the Fair." Darkies' Day at the Fair. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014


Garland, Hamlin. "World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History." World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


"History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition." History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


"Illinois - Chicago, 1933 - World's Fair, 1933: Avenue of Flags." Illinois - Chicago, 1933 - World's Fair, 1933: Avenue of Flags. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014


"Illinois - Chicago, 1933 - World's Fair, 1933: Hollywood Exhibit." Illinois - Chicago, 1933 - World's Fair, 1933: Hollywood Exhibit. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


"Missouri History Museum Cross Collection Search." Panorama of 1904 World's Fair Grounds to Northwest, Taken from Tethered Balloon at 900 Feet. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


Schiffman, Lizzie. "Chicago Most Segregated City In America, Despite Significant Improvements In Last Decade." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


"Special Days at the World's Columbian Exposition." Special Days at the World's Columbian Exposition. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


Wells, Melissa. "New 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit At Chicago’s Field Museum!"Suburban Scrawl RSS. N.p., 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


"The World's Columbian Exposition (1893)." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.


"The World's Columbian Exposition: Paul V. Galvin Digital History Collection." The World's Columbian Exposition: Paul V. Galvin Digital History Collection. Paul V. Galvin Library, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.


"World's Columbian Exposition." World's Columbian Exposition. Encyclopedia of Chicago, 2005. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.



By: Jelani McGhee-Anderson