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Mon, 03.20.1916

Ota Benga Commits Suicide

Ota Benga

*On this date in 1916, Ota Benga, an African pygmy kept in the Bronx Zoo, killed himself.

Benga was brought to America from the Belgian Congo in 1904 by noted African explorer Samuel Verner and other pygmies and displayed in an exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis world’s Fair.  In 1906, the crowds thronged the monkey house exhibit at the Bronx Zoo (New York Zoological Park) to view Benga.  In time he began to hate being the object of curiosity.

Several institutions tried to help him, and he was placed in the Virginia Theological Seminary and College but quit school to work in a tobacco factory.  Growing homesick, hostile, and despondent, Ota Benga borrowed a revolver and shot himself in the heart.

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