Human Rights Victim. Born in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this pygmy from the Batwa tribe, along with other African pygmies, was brought to the United States to be exhibited in a World Village that "showcased" native tribesmen from all over the world at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. At the expos conclusion the young African and his fellow tribesmen were returned to Africa, but Benga, asked to return to the US with the man who first brought him to America, Samuel Verner. Financial difficulties soon forced Verner to leave the tribesman in the care of the American Museum of Natural History in New York as he went to South Carolina to seek family support for his financial struggles. In 1906, the caretakers decided to place the African native in the Bronx Zoo as part of an exhibit on evolution. The man was caged in the primate house with an orangutan as his only roommate. The exhibition became popular drawing over 40,000 visitors daily. However, human rights activists protested the spectacle and Ota Benga was soon removed from display. Now a national curiosity, he was sent to Virginia where many hoped he would find a new start. However, trapped between the cultures of his native Africa and his new home in the United States, Benga shot himself. He was in his early thirties. This tragedy was one of the first to bring to the world's attention the importance of human rights. His legacy is preserved in a book about his life, "Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo" (1992), the movie, "Ota Benga: A Pygmy in America" (2002) and in the establishment of the "Ota Benga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity". He was reportedly buried in an unmarked grave in Lynchburg's Old City Cemetery before being moved to the city's White Rock Cemetery. Therefore the location of his grave is uncertain. (bio by: Bigwoo)
Note: His actual burial site (White Rock Cemetery) was deliberately kept secret for many years as it was feared that officials from his homeland (Africa) would attempt to retrieve his body and ship it back to Africa.