Black exhibits stifled by 1890s world’s fairs

“Proponents argued that an Afro-American exhibit would encourage black participation in the [Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition]. Blacks laid plans to rely on the Southern Exposition in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1891 as a gathering point for black exhibits to be sent to the world’s fair two years later. But the idea of a separate exhibit aroused opposition as de facto surrender to segregation.

“The issue became moot when fair directors ruled against racially separate exhibits. Instead, they encouraged blacks to participate in existing state displays [as] approved by all-white committees of the various states. Few black exhibits made their way through the screening process…..

“In North Carolina resistance to the planned black exhibit from the state [in the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895] was so strong that the state’s commissioners to the fair had to inform interested fairgoers that a better display of  achievements by North Carolina blacks could be found at the state’s annual ‘colored fair.’ ”

— From “All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916” by Robert W. Rydell (1984)

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