Paris Negro Exhibit
Interior of Negro Exhibition, was the first and last fair to bridge the gap between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This was also the pinnacle of imperialism, and the “nadir of race relations in America.” After witnessing a successful campaign for the inclusion of African-Americans, in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, African-Americans viewed the Paris Exhibition as an way to promote it’s people. This promotion displayed negroes and their progression 35 years after the end of slavery. One year before the fair, W.E.B. Du Bois, began to collect materials for the display. He focused on creating charts, maps, and graphs which recorded population growth, economic power, and literacy among African Americans in Georgia.
In conjunction with Daniel A.P. Murray (assistant to the Librarian of Congress) Du Bois was able to assemble a large collection of written works. Such works included a bibliography which contained 1400 titles, 200 books, and many of the 150 periodicals which were published by African- Americans back then.
One highlight of the exhibit utilized nine models to depict the progress of Negroes from slavery to present day. The display of models began with the homeless freedman and ended with the modern brick schoolhouse and its teachers. Finally, to illustrate an increase in the African- American population and to demonstrate other contributions, there were charts showing population growth, the decline in illiteracy, and a record of the more than 350 patents granted to black men since 1834. W. E. B. Du Bois stated, during his presentation of the exhibit, he also hoped to illustrate “the History of the American Negro, the Present condition of the Negro, the Education of the Negro, and Literature of the Negro.”
Although, there had been eleven other expositions, held in such places as Vienna, Philadelphia, Sydney, New Orleans, Barcelona, and Chicago, all of which introduced a variety of different inventions and cultures to awe visitors Interior of Negro Exhibition was popular and unique in it’s own right. As a result of its great success, the Negro Exhibit was awarded seventeen medals during its time on display at the Paris Exposition. Specifically, it received “two grand prizes, four gold medals, seven silver medals, two bronze medals, and two honorable mentions” in the various categories of appraisal.
DuBois‘ project was backed by a $15,000 budget funded by the American government. It amounted to numerous artifacts, including “musical compositions, books by African American authors, and the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, their award-winning display of photographs, books, models, maps, patents, and plans from several black universities, including Atlanta, Fisk, Howard, Hampton, and Tuskegee, showed the world African- Americans “studying, examining, and thinking of their own progress, and prospect.”
We have thus, it may be seen, an honest, straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves.