The operator of the century-old Bronx Zoo, one of the world’s most famous wildlife parks, has apologized for two “outrageous” racist episodes in the past, including the display of an African man in a monkey house in 1906.
The Society for the Conservation of Wildlife, which runs the Bronx Zoo in addition to three other zoos and an aquarium in New York, said in a statement this week that “for the sake of equality, transparency and accountability, we must confront the historical role of our organization. to promote racial injustice. “
The society cites its attitude towards a young Central African man from the Mbuti people in today̵
“His name was Otta Benga,” the statement said. Bronx Zoo officials “put Otta Benga on display at the Zoo’s Monkey House for several days in the week of September 8, 1906, before outrage from local black ministers quickly brought an end to the infamous incident.”
One of those ministers, the Rev. James Gordon, “arranged for Otto Beng to remain in an orphanage he runs in Weeksville, Brooklyn,” the statement said. “Robbed of his humanity and unable to return home,” Otta Benga died of suicide a decade later.
All known records of Otta Benga in the wildlife community are now available online as part of an effort to “publicly acknowledge the mistakes of our past,” the statement said.
The organization, founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, also denounces “based on eugenics, pseudo-scientific racism, scriptures, and philosophies,” developed by two of its founders, Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborne, Sr.
Grant wrote the winning book on eugenics, The Crossing of the Great Race, with a foreword by Osborne.
The book is presented as an exhibit in defense of the Nazi doctor Carl Brand, director of the Third Reich’s Euthanasia Program, and other defendants in the Nuremberg trials.
Brandt, who was also Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, was convicted by the War Crimes Tribunal in 1947 and killed in 1948.
The Wildlife Society said in a statement, first reported by The New York Times, that it had a duty to confront these episodes.
“We deeply regret that many people and generations have been hurt by these actions or by our failure to condemn them publicly and condemn them beforehand,” the statement said. “We recognize that overt and systemic racism persists and our institution must play a greater role in confronting it. As the United States deals with its legacy of anti-black racism and the brutal killings that led to mass protests around the world, we reaffirm that. our commitment to ensuring that social, racial and environmental justice are deeply rooted in our conservation mission. “
The organization also said it was hiring a diversity officer to help “provide diverse groups of candidates for recruitment, promotion and continuity planning, including our advice and leadership.”
“Today, we challenge ourselves to do better and never look away when and where injustice has occurred,” the statement said.