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A Dream of the FutureRace, Empire, and Modernity at the Atlanta and Nashville World's Fairs$

Nathan Cardon

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190274726

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190274726.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

The Negro Buildings

The Negro Buildings

(p.40) 2 The Negro Buildings
A Dream of the Future

Nathan Cardon

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 2 examines the creation of and role played by the Negro Buildings at the Atlanta and Nashville fairs. These African American–run buildings gave southern black professionals and clerics an opportunity to voice their own story of the South’s past, present, and future. The buildings presented an image of a “New Negro” who was well versed in the modern techniques of industry and agriculture. The Negro Building exhibits presented black southerners as a progressive and future-oriented people who challenged much of the evolutionary thinking and racial science of the late nineteenth century. At the same time, the Negro Buildings make clear the ways some African American leaders embraced the language of progress and civilization to accommodate white southern society.

Keywords:   Negro Building, African Americans, Progress, Accommodation, New South, New Negro, Atlanta, Nashville, international expositions

On a late September day in 1895, prominent African American spokesman and emigrationist booster, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, toured the grounds of Atlanta’s Cotton States and International Exposition alongside a Chicago Inter Ocean reporter. Looking at the displays of industry, education, and agriculture in the Negro Building, Turner commented that he had “no patience with the talk about the new negro as workman.” Black people had always labored in the South, and to display them as workers was nothing new. Turner instead placed “new negroes” in a different category: New Negroes were not laborers but African Americans participating in the nascent world of commercial amusement and, far from a positive influence, brought black people down in the eyes of whites.1

Upon leaving the building, Turner and his companion strolled down the midway. At the Dahomey Village, Turner remarked: “Here must be the ‘new negro.’ ” Confronting the white spieler, Turner demanded to know why “you white men pursue the negro to Africa with your lying? You have for years lied about the negro in this country, and now . . . you are lying about the negro at home on his native heath.” The spieler demanded to know what he could know about Africa, to which Turner replied that he had spent time in Africa pursuing missionary and emigrationist causes. He assured the gathering crowd that while West Africans “may be heathens and uncivilized,” they were “more peaceable and gentle than many of you civilized and enlightened white men here in America.” For fairgoers, the Dahomey Village was an authentic taste of Africa, but Turner suggested that the “wild negro cannibals you have here, cavorting around like apes and baboons, never saw Africa. They are lazy, good-for-nothing negroes from New York, or some other town, where they have been taught to jump about like monkeys and yell like hyenas, while you tell (p.41) these people that they are talking in their native tongue. Stop your lying about the negro!” The astonished journalist reported that the “crowd shouted, the showman looked stupefied, and the Bishop walked down the Midway, telling me there was no new negro.”2

The Atlanta and Nashville expositions opened spaces for African Americans to confront and challenge the white racial structure of the region and nation. In their ephemeral and festive nature, the fairs created a conversation between whites and blacks, fairgoers, and exhibitors that could not have occurred outside the expositions. In 1895 the Cotton States may have been the only place in the South where Bishop Turner could confront a white man and the white race in a crowd of whites and not face life-threatening consequences. At the very moment Jim Crow was limiting black political and social participation in southern society, the expositions gave African Americans an opportunity to voice their own story of the South’s past, present, and future. At the same time, black participation in the expositions makes clear the ways some African American leaders embraced the very language of racial progress and civilization that excluded them from southern and American society.3

To the black commissioners and organizers of the Negro Buildings, the future was a different New Negro than the one disparaged by Turner. To them “the New Negro” was educated and well versed in the modern techniques of agriculture and industry. Demonstrating the agricultural, industrial, material, and educational progress of African Americans, the buildings presented black southerners as a future-oriented people. “I think that it is time to show them that we, the colored people of the south, have accomplished something,” stated the African American doctor and pharmacist H. R. Butler in the pages of the Atlanta Constitution, “that we are indeed a great people, and that we have a future before us which very few of them dream of.”4 Just as Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” speech at the opening ceremonies of the Cotton States called for African Americans to “cast down their buckets,” so too did the Negro Buildings present African Americans as a separate and vibrant race rooted in the South. Speaking two months prior to the Tennessee Centennial, Richard Hill, chief of the Negro Department, asserted that black southerners were on trial, facing “the most severe test as to what we have done, are now doing, since our emancipation.”5 Two decades before the Great Migration, southern African Americans asserted that they were “New Negroes,” well equipped to participate in modern society. The buildings and exhibits challenged an emerging racial science that suggested black Americans were incapable of progress. Frederick Hoffman, an influential actuarial scientist, claimed in 1896 that African Americans’ inherent racial traits and tendencies “must in the end cause the (p.42) extinction of the race.” The evidence presented by the Negro Departments offered a different conclusion.6

As much as the Negro Buildings called for African Americans to lift themselves up in the South, they also frequently looked beyond their region and nation. At the fairs, southern black spokesmen viewed American foreign engagement with Africa as a way to assert their position on a civilizational scale. For the buildings’ middle class and elite organizers, Social Darwinism was wrong on one level: they themselves were evidence that not all African Americans were degenerating. Far from contesting the methods of racial science, the Negro Buildings challenged its conclusions and instead transferred degeneration and primitivism onto different classes and people. In doing so, the black organizers of the Negro Exhibits supported a worldview that was used to justify American misadventures abroad. Lastly, although Turner was wrong about the Dahomey Village—the performers really were West Africans—his report illuminates a growing divide within the black community. Some African Americans joined the culture industry and its commodification of black culture as a way to escape the old economies of the South. The expositions’ Old Plantation amusement, which featured black actors playing themselves in slavery, suggests how some African Americans exploited racist stereotypes as a means to participate in modern and sophisticated art forms. In an era and region in which black people were excluded from even moderate-paying jobs, working in racialized entertainment offered a chance to escape agricultural and manual labor.7

Before his speech at the opening ceremonies of Atlanta’s Cotton States and International Exposition, Booker T. Washington was a well known but not famous educator. His words that day propelled him overnight to become the most prominent African American in the country. While Washington and his program of technical education are now criticized, in 1895 many accepted accommodationism as a prudent course of action. Even W. E. B. Du Bois, Washington’s great antagonist, initially responded favorably to the speech he later labeled a compromise.8 Like the Negro Building and African American fairgoers, the Atlanta Compromise presented black people as law-abiding, well behaved, and willing to work hard in a racially divided South. For many southern African Americans, Washington’s speech was viewed as a genuine way to improve their economic conditions and challenge the social order of the New South.9

At the expositions, fairgoers could go to the Negro Building and witness black advancement in the South since the Civil War. On the midway they could see an “Old Plantation” and experience a fanciful re-creation of slave life before moving to the Dahomey Village to witness African primitivism and (p.43) savagery. African American fairgoers themselves were subjects of inquiry as they moved about the fairgrounds. In the face of these multiple representations of blackness, the attempts by white and black southerners to present an ordered vision of race came unhinged. As Alice Bacon, a white teacher at the Hampton Institute, wrote after the Cotton States: “Two surprises were in store for the thousands of visitors who assembled in Atlanta. . . . One was the negro exhibit, the other was the exhibit of the negro.” The problem for many was which “Negro” took center stage.10

When it was announced that the nation would gather in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival to the Americas, African Americans had hoped to present their achievements at the great exposition. Before the World’s Columbian opened its gates, however, its organizers confirmed that there would be no place for African Americans at the national celebration. Chicago’s executive committee squashed plans for a separate black exhibit and encouraged proposals for individual exhibits to the all-white committees of their respective states. Unsurprisingly, few exhibits made it past the committee stage.11

Outraged, Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells published The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition. The pamphlet—handed out to fairgoers at the exposition’s entrance—made clear the treatment and discrimination faced by black people, at the same time outlining African American advancement in the United States. In the end, the exposition’s management conceded to the demands for participation by granting a “Jubilee” or “Colored People’s Day.” Douglass and Wells split on whether to support the token offer. Douglass, then serving as US Minister Resident and Consul-General to Haiti, backed the idea and took the opportunity to address his nation from the Haitian pavilion. Calling on the world to “[m]easure the Negro,” Douglass forgot that there were few opportunities at the exposition to “measure” the black community given that fewer than one thousand African Americans attended the fair that day. Whites were free, however, to examine caricatured black performers on the fair’s midway or view Africans and other people of color at the ethnological villages that lined the exposition’s “avenue of nations.”12 African Americans, having been denied a physical and conceptual presence in Chicago, would two years later be given a chance to showcase to the world their progress at a southern international exposition.

For the white southerners running the Atlanta and Nashville fairs, the Negro Departments aimed to convey a good relationship between the races in the South. New South spokesmen understood that the region suffered from bad publicity. Black leaders, such as Ida B. Wells, had publicized the horrors of lynching to a national audience. Numerous northerners, while (p.44) increasingly sympathetic with the white South, still harbored reservations about the treatment of African Americans. Knowing the national spotlight was on their cities and the acknowledged need to attract northern capital, organizers planned to use the black exhibits to confirm the South’s supposed racial harmony and demonstrate its ongoing uplift of black southerners.13

The inclusion of African Americans at the fairs was also aimed at attaining a federal appropriation for a government exhibit. George Washington Murray, a black congressman from South Carolina, joined the Cotton States’ committee, which consisted of Abram L. Grant, Wesley J. Gaines, and Booker T. Washington. This committee pushed for an appropriation on the basis that Atlanta would be the first exposition to allow the full participation of African Americans.14 In their speeches, the four men highlighted both the race pride and the accommodationist rhetoric consistent with the southern New Negro movement. Gaines argued that the exposition would “give his race an opportunity to make an exhibit of its development and progress,” while Grant reassured Congress that African Americans would remain in the South. Atlanta’s black leadership soothed northern white fears that no matter their economic or political development, African Americans would stay in the South.15

The final word went to G. W. Murray who suggested an inclusive vision that linked black participation in the fair with the spread of American civilization across the globe. He declared, “The colored people of this country want an opportunity to show that their progress, that the civilization which is now admired the world over, that the civilization which is now leading the world, that the civilization which all the nations of the world look up to and imitate, the colored people, I say, want an opportunity to show that they, too, are part and parcel of that great civilization.” The appropriation was approved with an amendment that the exposition “provide a separate building for the Negro Exhibit, instead of locating it in the Government Building, as had been proposed.”16

From the point of view of the expositions’ white organizers, the Negro Building represented a new era in the region’s long and troubled history of race. Washington, Gaines, and Grant backed a southern racial ideal in which African Americans lived and worked apart from whites but strived jointly to advance the region’s industrial and material growth. For whites, however, the Negro Building represented the extent that they viewed African Americans as an industrial race. While late-nineteenth century racial science regarded African Americans as strictly rural workers incapable of participating in the industrial economy due to their “tropical race traits,” the New South boosters behind the fairs viewed black laborers as necessary cogs in a future industrialized South. This vision contrasted sharply with the lived reality of (p.45) African American laborers confined to agricultural status or trained as outmoded artisanal workers. By taking part in an industrial exposition, African Americans suggested other possibilities.17

The Negro Buildings illustrate the ways in which some New South boosters supported the technical education of African Americans, while conceding that members of the clerical and professional classes might achieve a status that was objectively similar to that of educated whites. Black advancement in the South, however, could be tolerated only on white terms and in the context of a racial paternalism that extended back to the days of slavery. Walter Cooper, in the Cotton States’ official history, considered the Negro Building to be illustrative of the ways in which African Americans had surpassed their “natural” limitations to achieve material and moral progress, while giving credit to southern whites for supporting industrial education.18 At the Tennessee Centennial a pamphlet proclaimed: “The white race of the South has generously and wisely aided the Negro race to solve the problem of self-help and it is pleasant to note that many Negro leaders have met the advances of their former masters in a gratifying spirit of thankfulness and have utilized the advantages afforded them with surprising intelligence.”19

The Negro Buildings also intended to demonstrate that the South had wrought order out of the disorder of Reconstruction. For New South boosters, the Negro Departments demonstrated the failure of federal oversight: that African Americans were naturally inferior to whites and that it was a mistake to let nonwhite southerners control the region’s future. It was “unjust on behalf of the negro to put him in places of power for which his ignorance made him absurdly inadequate,” proclaimed the Cotton States’ official history.20 William Yates Atkinson, the governor of Georgia, suggested that the Negro Building was proof that the Reconstruction experiment of equality was a failure: “God never tried to make [the Negro] the equal of the white man.” The building also demonstrated the supposed largesse of white southerners, and Atkinson welcomed “all mankind to visit us and witness both the problem and process.”21

The expositions argued for the reassertion of white southern sovereignty over the question of race in the region. By manufacturing a peaceful and ordered relationship between the races and making clear black southerners’ material and moral progress, the South’s international expositions offered a counterpoint to those who believed the federal government should still govern southern race relations. When placed in a society where black inferiority was taken as fact, white paternalism created an image of a benevolent and caring South. While the reality was starkly different—in 1895, eight African Americans were lynched in Georgia—the image of an advancing white and black South made clear the region’s integration with the nation’s modernity.22

(p.46) The extent to which northern fairgoers accepted this vision was uneven. Although some praised the South’s handling of the race question as evidenced by the “peaceful relations” of the expositions, others were left unconvinced.23 A reporter from the Brooklyn Eagle noticed a degree of equality, but outside the fairgrounds black southerners continued to face “ostracism.” “The negro is barred from many places [in Atlanta],” he reported back to his New York readers. “The old distinctions are slowly fading and breaking down, but it will be many years before the negro is admitted his real freedom.” While the Eagle hoped that the old distinctions would “fade,” they only hardened in the years following the exposition. In the end, the expositions made clear the compatibility of Jim Crow and modernity to the nation.24

A separate Negro Building fit with the late-nineteenth century’s “search for order.” The building took its place alongside the Children’s Building and the Woman’s Building. Presentation of an ordered worldview in the form of museums and expositions was at that time a form of cultural power. Beyond the racist dictates of whites, the categorizations of the expositions’ buildings were evidence for the South’s progressive spirit. The fairs encouraged visitors to insert themselves in a particular vision of history and society—one that separated black from white, women from men, children from adults, and primitive from civilized. The South’s expositions, in their systems of classification, positioned southern fairgoers as scientific observers encouraging them to expand their intellectual horizons. The Negro Building was indicative of a new governmental logic that demonstrated to outsiders that the South was not a primitive hodgepodge ruled by irrational racial instincts but an ordered and harmonious society.25

For southern African Americans, the Negro Buildings were a chance to challenge white images of blackness. The organizers of the buildings were drawn from the professional class and clergy. In Atlanta, the building’s commissioners consisted of well-known African American spokesmen from each state in the South. Nashville’s committee, on the other hand, was a more local affair, with the city’s black elite and middle class forming the building’s brain trust. The commissioners and committee members’ occupations consisted of ministerial, entrepreneurial, judicial, medical, and educational positions. Despite their absence from the official pamphlets and histories of the fair, African American women contributed to many of the exhibits of the Negro Buildings, and meetings of women’s organizations, including the National Association of Colored Women, raised their profile.26

Rooted in New South cities, the organizers and committee members were the living embodiment of the progressive spirit of the Negro Buildings. Their participation in the representational ventures of the expositions repositioned (p.47) the debate on black advancement. They imbibed the spirit of the southern New Negro and embraced the bourgeois values that formed the politics of respectability. These elite men and women defined African American identity on behalf of the black community. In doing so, they presented a vision of African Americans that emphasized racial solidarity, took an accommodationist approach to racial inequality, and confirmed an economic and cultural stratification within the southern black community.27

The Negro Buildings’ exhibits were drawn mostly from black institutions and focused on agriculture and technical education. While the discrete buildings were not without controversy, many southern African Americans approved of the exhibits’ depiction of a separate and vibrant people. On a practical level, the Leavenworth Herald, a black-owned newspaper from Kansas, stated that African Americans’ progress “would go wholly unnoticed by the visitors at the fair” if black exhibits were dispersed among white exhibits.28 The separate building was a source of race pride for the Herald: “Some object to Negroes exhibiting because we all have a separate building. We ought to have a separate building. We are American citizens, but we are a separate and distinct race. We would to God that we were more ourselves, more united in ideas and actions and would stop being ‘white.’ ”29 The Atlanta Constitution’s H. R. Butler echoed that sentiment: “Why is it that at this late hour we are raising this kick about being separated? Why I am glad of it, I say that we should take advantage of this opportunity and go into this work with our whole souls. We should show them what a separate people can do.”30 With the reality of Jim Crow settling in, some black southerners were willing to embrace separation, viewing it as an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and exhibit race pride.

The Negro Building at Atlanta’s Cotton States was located in the southeast corner of the exposition, far from the fair’s main entrance, but it was not hidden. The building was, in fact, at the busy Jackson Street entrance to the exposition park. Erected by two black contractors at a cost of $10,000, it was one of the larger buildings on the grounds at twenty-five thousand square feet.31 The chief of the Negro Department was I. Garland Penn, a school principal from Lynchburg, Virginia. Born two years after the Civil War, Penn attended grammar and high school. Following his studies, Penn took a teaching job in Virginia and rose to the position of principal. Prior to taking his position as chief, Penn was principally known for compiling a history of African American journalism. Twenty-eight years old at the time of the Atlanta exposition, Penn embodied the southern New Negro movement. He was educated, proud of his race, and willing to work with whites to ensure the maintenance of civil and social rights. Penn also placed himself at the top of an increasingly stratified African American community. More educated and more sophisticated than the (p.48) black sharecroppers surrounding Lynchburg, Penn saw it as his moral duty to uplift others, while maintaining a distinction between himself and members of the black working class.32

At the entrance of the Negro Building an allegorical pediment told the story of black progress. On one side of the pediment was a depiction of a slave mammy in 1865, a one-room log cabin, a log church, a rake, and a basket. On the other side was Frederick Douglass accompanied by a “neat, modern Negro home,” a stone church and, what Penn described as “symbols of the race’s progress in science, art and literature, all representative of the new negro in 1895.” In the center was a plow and a well-fed mule. According to Penn, this represented the freedom of African Americans from slavery: “for the colored man today plows his field, while thirty years ago he without almost an exception plowed for another.” A romantic image given that the majority of African Americans were ensnared in the South’s system of sharecropping and debt peonage, it nevertheless made clear the explicit race pride of the building and confronted white stereotypes that cast black people as indolent. The first image encountered at the Negro Building was to be read as a progressive allegory of African American life.33

Upon entering the building, the visitor was met by a large statue of a black male in loincloth with broken chains around his wrists. Under the statue was the motto: “Chains broken, but not off.” The statue, like the pediment, was understood as an allegory of progress. The New York commission reported that “if the present rate of progress is maintained for twenty-five years to come, it needs no optimism to predict that the chains will have entirely disappeared and little, if any, trace remain of their having been worn.”34 Likewise, in his Negro Day address, the black minister J. W. E. Bowden interpreted the statue’s muscular and powerful frame to be the “new Negro.” “What is he doing?” asked Bowden, “He is thinking! And by the power of thought he will think off those chains and have both hands free to help you to build this country and make a grand destiny of himself.”35 The statue also referenced the popular abolitionist image of a praying slave, pleading, “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” While the kneeling slave maintained the African American body as servant and supplicant to God and whites, the “Chains broken, but not off” motto was a powerful reimaging of the slave figure. Muscular and standing, the statue asserted that African Americans were no longer supplicant servants but an independent people reliant on themselves. That the statue retained his chains was a reminder that although slavery’s chains may have been broken, its long-standing effects—poverty, discrimination, and exploitation—continued to be worn by African Americans at the end of the nineteenth century.36 (p.49)

The Negro Buildings

Figure 2.1 Centrally located in the Negro Building, W. C. Hill’s sculpture of a naked and muscular African American man with broken chains around his wrists was a powerful reimagining of the slave figure. The sculpture embodied the Negro Department’s argument that African Americans were now progressive New Negroes in the process of breaking the chains of slavery’s legacy. Fred L. Howe, “Negro Building (Interior)” (1895), Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center.

The exhibits of the Negro Building were divided by state. The first display came from the District of Columbia. It consisted mainly of art and statuary as well as some “principal patents by colored inventors on record in the Patent Office.” It featured portraits of Frederick Douglass, John M. Langston, Blanche K. Bruce, and the commissioner Jesse Lawson by Daniel Freeman. Three artworks by W. C. Hill dominated the exhibit: a bust of Douglass, an allegorical painting titled “The Obstinate Shoe,” and the life-size statue of “The Negro with Chains Broken.” The building contained exhibits from most southern states and featured an enormous restaurant and café, which the black newspaper the Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade reported was “patronized liberally by both races without the slightest friction.”37 The last noteworthy feature was an exhibit from Henry McNeal Turner’s personal collection. Labeled “Uncivilized Africa” it was to show the “other extreme of the race.” It displayed “the natural resources and some of the crude manufactures of (p.50) the west coast of Africa” and did not “represent civilized Africa, but the uncivilized natives, the heathen of that country.” Black spokesmen took great care to provide object lessons that made clear the advancement of African Americans.38

The Negro Building’s reception was generally positive in both the white and black press. The Atlanta Constitution praised its simplicity and order, which allowed the fairgoer to easily examine the exhibits.39 Likewise, the Leavenworth Herald reported: “The ‘Negro building’ is not only one of the largest, but one of the most attractive, and it is all their own. Everybody goes to see it, and all white visitors, Northern or Southern speak of it as a revelation.”40 There were, of course, dissenting voices. Charles Kindrick, writing in the New Orleans Picayune, was unimpressed with the displays of African American industry and education. In fact, the building’s exhibits so clearly demonstrated the progress made since the Civil War that Kindrick could not believe African Americans were behind them at all. He argued that the Negro Building showed that “the negro has simply been carried along by a motion he could never generated” and that the exhibits were mostly by “negroes who have white blood in their veins. The real negro has little to do with the exhibit.” Unable to reconcile his racist beliefs with the evidence presented before him, Kindrick simply dismissed the displays.41 The Picayune, in contrast to its reporter, believed that as the “Eiffel tower was the striking feature of the Paris exposition, and as the Ferris wheel was the particular unique thing remembered at Chicago, the negro exhibit and the negro building will constitute the striking and novel feature of the cotton states exposition.” For most observers, the Negro Building, along with the Women’s Building, was the defining structure of the Cotton States and International Exposition.42

The Tennessee Centennial, recognizing the popularity of Atlanta’s Negro Building, included black exhibit space and featured it prominently in promotional material. A pamphlet circulated prior to the fair promised that the building would “illustrate the progress of the race in America from the old plantation days down to the present time. The colored people of Tennessee will thus have the greatest opportunity ever offered them to demonstrate the history of the past and the hope and possibilities of the future.”43 The Indianapolis Freeman, came out early in support of an exhibit in Nashville. “This exposition promises to be a repetition of the Atlanta affair . . . which did more good in bringing the races in close relationship than anything that has happened in a quarter of a century.”44 The Official Catalogue highlighted the Negro Building as the most “beautiful building on the grounds” and that it was “well worthy of a visit by all interested in the progress of the Negro since the days of slavery.”45 (p.51)

The Negro Buildings

Figure 2.2 The Tennessee Centennial’s Negro Building was given a prominent place on the eastern bank of the exposition’s Lake Watauga. Designed in the Spanish Renaissance style, it was two stories tall with a rooftop pavilion and restaurant. With exception of the Parthenon, it was the defining feature of the fair. “Front View of the Negro Building and Lake With Swans” (1897), courtesy Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In charge of the department was Richard Hill, a Nashville schoolteacher and the son of “Uncle Jim Hill,” a slave “fiddler and prompter who played at the balls and parties given by the best families of Tennessee.” For the fair’s directors, Hill was a symbolic “milestone in the history of the race to show how far up or down it has traveled in the journey of life.” As a teacher, Hill was a part of Nashville’s black middle class and had contact with the city’s African American elite. His occupation also made him dependent on the city’s white patronage system. Hill’s cordial relationship with Nashville’s white officials played a key role in his position as chief of the Negro Department. A year prior to the opening of the Centennial, Hill replaced the first chief, nationally prominent Nashvillian James C. Napier. Napier resigned citing health concerns but his resignation letter suggests he was in disagreement with the representation of African Americans at the fair. With the contentious Napier out of the way, (p.52) Hill, a confirmed follower of Booker T. Washington, set out to demonstrate the industrial and educational growth of African Americans in the South.46

Two years after the Atlanta exposition and a year after the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, the Tennessee Centennial opened to a nation where the stakes were raised for black participation at a national event. It is clear that in two short years, African Americans’ fortunes in the South had shifted and much of the race pride on view in Atlanta was absent in Nashville. Gone was the bust of Douglass and the allegorical sculptures; in their place was a far more accommodationist vision. Whereas the Atlanta exposition had been defined by Booker T. Washington’s “compromise,” Nashville chose W. H. Councill as its representative. Councill, one of the most prominent African American spokesmen of the day, competed with Washington for white patronage. Going beyond any reasonable level of pragmatism, Councill supported the white nationalist rhetoric of the South.47

Councill, nevertheless, saw the Negro Building as an opportunity to confront white racism. During a speech at the building’s cornerstone ceremony, Councill emphasized the friendly relations between the two races and claimed that African Americans “received much more from slavery than did the slave-holders.” In the same speech, though, Councill attacked whites’ reliance on violence to police the color line: “Negro history has solved the negro problem from the negro side. There still remains the Caucasian problem. In view of what the negro has done for this country, in view of what the white man has done for the negro, will the white man continue and enlarge the work of encouragement to the struggling race; or will he use the shotgun instead of the Holy Bible; the bloody knife instead of the spelling book? These are the problems of Caucasian brains.” Southern African Americans, even those favoring extreme accommodation, conceived of the Negro Building as a space of resistance, a place where an accommodationist rhetoric opened the door to critique the South’s racial system.48

In both Atlanta and Nashville, the exhibits and displays of the Negro Buildings added up to a convincing vision. “We only ask for the opportunity,” wrote a manager for the Negro Department in Nashville, “and we will show to the world that we are enterprising and progressive, skillful and energetic, and alive to all interests and possibilities concerned in this great American Commonwealth.”49 Speaking at Alcorn A&M College in Lorman, Mississippi, the Atlanta commissioner Isaiah T. Montgomery—founder and one-time mayor of the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi—encouraged the school’s students to participate in and contribute to the Cotton States. Montgomery believed that the exhibits “will tend to show to the world and to ourselves the depth from which we have come: the height to which we have ascended, and (p.53) our grand possibilities in the future.”50 Through the Negro Buildings, African Americans marked their participation in a conversation over the limits and boundaries of American civilization.

A central component to the Negro Buildings’ presentation of African American progress was the pervasive logic of human development, and both white and black observers spoke of the exhibits in evolutionary terms. The official history of the Cotton States believed that the Negro Building “was a sociological study, an ethnological fact marking the progress of an important branch of the human race under circumstances not hitherto existing.” In the eyes of white southerners, the “gigantic experiment” of freedom forecast the future not just of African Americans “but of many more millions of the same race on other continents.” Whites at the expositions took on the role of a detached scientist observing African Americans’ evolution through the Negro Building.51

The Negro Buildings combated prevalent theories of black degeneration on the American continent not by invalidating the science but by denying its conclusions. Black spokesmen resolved that history was progressive, and that some races and people were destined to be left behind. I. Garland Penn believed Atlanta’s black exhibits made clear the advancement of a black class. To Penn, the exhibits showed that not all African Americans were “like the indolent, indifferent and loud-mouthed class who give us such a bad name and that the progressive negro . . . is entitled to a different treatment than the low class, thriftless and filthy negro.” By demonstrating the enlightened nature of New Negroes, Penn believed whites would recognize black rights. The Negro Buildings insisted that African Americans who were “frugal, thrifty, and intelligent” were not on the losing end of history. In making clear black southerners’ adoption of middle-class values and their material growth, the Negro Buildings contended that African Americans, of a certain standing, were a part of American civilization. “[A] few more of these Southern Expositions,” wrote a school principal from Greenville, Mississippi, “will roll back the mist and the educated and refined, the thrifty, and industrious Negro will be seen as a brilliant orb, making his way athwart the heavens of progress and civilization.”52

For African Americans who viewed themselves as fulfilling an evolutionary mandate, the exhibits served as object lessons of their successful movement away from savagery. In Nashville, this was made explicit when John Tevy, a native of West Africa, was stationed on the steps of the building. Tevy’s purpose was to talk “entertainingly of the contrast between the American Negro and the Dahomean.” John Tevy was the perfect object lesson for the building’s linear narrative of racial progress. Tevy, like other artifacts of the past, made clear the advancement of Africans in America to both black and white visitors. (p.54) The African American commissioners, however, did not limit themselves to the Negro Buildings, and they frequently made use of other examples of primitivism scattered about the expositions to illustrate their racial advancement.53

At the Cotton States exposition, fairgoers could visit both a supposedly authentic Dahomey Village and an Old Plantation. The Tennessee Centennial did not have a Dahomey Village but did feature a plantation amusement. The lack of a Dahomey Village at the Tennessee Centennial exposition was likely due to the Dahomeyans’ treatment at the Cotton States. In early January 1896, a mob of armed West Africans attempted to take the life of a concessionaire on the midway. Since the end of the exposition, the concessionaire had scarcely fed the Africans because he had lost most of his money. The New Orleans Picayune reported, “The condition of the savages is deplorable. They say they have had nothing to eat except bread for several days, and because of their rude huts and thin clothing they have suffered a great deal from the cold of the past few days.”54

Both of these midway shows presented people of African descent at different moments of evolutionary development even as they co-existed in time with white Americans. The Dahomey Village displayed West Africans as a primitive people not far removed from the Stone Age. The Atlanta Constitution stressed the Dahomeyans’ primitive state, frequently referring to their nakedness: “black and savagely nude,” in the words of the newspaper. The midway’s exhibit of foreign primitivism allowed white fairgoers to measure their supposed supremacy. For the fairs’ black committees, such atavisms could be devastating. Indeed, some white fairgoers did not draw clear distinctions between the Dahomey Village, the Negro Building, and African American fairgoers. Maude Andrews reported in the Atlanta Constitution that a Dahomeyan dance made her “think of a negro laborer scattering corn in the field.” Given the way in which all people of African descent were lumped outside of civilization, it is unsurprising that black laborers working on the Atlanta exposition’s grounds attempted to break in and confront the Dahomeyans when they first arrived at the exposition.55 African American laborers, whose status was precarious in the New South, were anxious not to be lumped in with the primitivism of the midway. However, for African Americans placing themselves at the top of the southern black community, such portrayals were used to bolster their claims.

The Negro Buildings

Figure 2.3 Two West African women perform household duties at the Cotton States’ Dahomey Village. For white fairgoers and exposition organizers, the village confirmed the links between African Americans and supposedly primitive Africans. For the black elite and middle class, the village was viewed as an object lesson proving how far they had progressed in America. Fred L. Howe, “Dahomey Village” (1895), Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center.

At the Cotton States exposition, the African American newspaper the Broad Ax reported that while many white fairgoers expected to find the Negro Building filled with a “rude and barbarous race,” they found the opposite: “But all such [fairgoers] were pleasantly disappointed; on the contrary they had the opportunity of beholding a characteristic Dahomey village, placed in contrast (p.55) with the achievement of the race, in civilization, in literature, in industrial lines, in finances and in high arts.” Echoing the Constitution’s views of West Africans, the Broad Ax reported that “The village representing the lowest savage life of darkest Africa, with its half-clothed, unkempt natives, proves a wonderful contrast with the surrounding evidences of culture and refinement of the American negroes.” As a conciliatory note, the newspaper did, however, give the Africans some credit: “The exhibit also contains many things from Africa, showing what the race is capable of even without the aid of high civilization.”56 African American fairgoers were also taken aback by the primitiveness of the West Africans. “An educated, well-dressed, beaver-hatted negro man pauses in the promenade,” wrote Maude Andrews in Leslie’s Weekly, “to frown disapprovingly on this musical expression of real African sentiments.” Standing side by side with Africans, the African American middle class believed whites would (p.56) surely see they were a modern people. An image of black primitiveness was thus transferred from southern African Americans to Africans.57

The Dahomey Village makes clear the complicated relationship between African Americans and the ongoing colonization of Africa in the late nineteenth century. On the one hand, the village seemed to confirm black advancement in the Americas; on the other hand, the collapsing of a distinction between Africans and African Americans compelled black visitors to reimagine their connections with Africa. As Jim Crow tightened its hold, emigrationists like Henry McNeal Turner suggested that African Americans could fulfill their destiny only as a separate and vibrant people outside of the United States. At the same time, the Negro Buildings’ purposeful contrast to primitive depictions of West Africans undermined the emigrationist cause, helping to explain Turner’s outburst at the Atlanta fair. The Negro Buildings’ support of a Jim Crow modernity located in the South forestalled a need to immigrate to Africa: African Americans could become a strong and separate people within the South—their relationship to Africa was to uplift and civilize. The Negro Buildings aligned well with the African American missionaries of the period who viewed missionary activity in Africa as a way to make clear their own progress and lay claim to American citizenship. Emigrationists like Turner, who placed the future of African Americans in Africa and not in the United States, were left out of this New Negro paradigm.58

Like the Dahomey Village, the expositions’ Old Plantation amusements highlighted the supposed primitive nature of people of African descent. Rather than locating primitivism on foreign soil, the Old Plantation suggested that contemporary rural African Americans were trapped in an uncivilized time. If the racial harmony of the Negro Building convinced northerners that southern whites had a humane answer to the “Negro Problem,” the Old Plantation eased northerners’ minds that the proper place for African Americans was, indeed, the South.59

The Old Plantation was a cross between popular plantation shows such as the South Before the War (1892) and Nate Salsbury’s Black America (1895), and the living anthropological exhibits like the Dahomey Village.60 It was a nostalgic entertainment in which black Americans were not part of a foreign country but of a foreign time. The Tennessee Centennial’s catalogue described the amusement as a show that “consists of a representation of home scenes on the Old Plantation as it was before the war.” It confirmed that the “participants are negroes altogether, and their songs, dances, cakewalks and stump speaking are interspersed with music on the banjo, crap-shooting scenes, and all the events of the happy days long gone. It is not minstrel entertainment purely, but an effort to show the sunny side of the olden times, and the innocent, joyous (p.57) amusements of a time that has passed away. And which is only remembered by the older men and women of the South.” Plantation shows depicted a “folkloric isolation” that helped relieve the new urban middle class’s unease over modern civilization.61

The Old Plantation played into well-circulated stereotypes of African Americans as a happy-go-lucky people, which undercut the seriousness of the Negro Building. After taking in a concert of the Fisk Jubilee Singers at the Tennessee Centennial’s Negro Building, President William McKinley was stopped by a troupe of black performers. Costumed, according to the Baltimore Sun, “in the most grotesque and characteristic costumes imaginable,” the performers sang “improvised verses about ‘Bill McKinley and his last great race.’ ” The Sun reported that “[w]hen they concluded the song with a hilarious buck dance the President’s efforts to maintain his dignity failed him and he broke into a hearty laugh.” No matter the evidence of material and industrial growth exhibited by African Americans at the expositions, they were undermined by popular stereotypes that positioned black people as humorous sideshows. For Maude Andrews in Harper’s Weekly, the Old Plantation was directly connected to the Dahomey Village, presenting a vision of blackness that crossed time and space: “Real negroes are on the platform before us,” Andrews noted, “dancing wildly, and singing in that queer crooning animal way that always makes one look about for the wild beasts of [Rudyard] Kipling’s jungle stories. Not very different in their movements and voices are these darkies, who have lived all their lives amid civilization, from those wild creatures in the Dahomey Village.”62

Although it is easy to dismiss the Old Plantation as yet another example of the racism found at expositions, it likely contained “hidden transcripts.” The Old Plantation was one of the few places to perform a new sound that was absent from the high culture embraced by the Negro Building and hidden from the eyes of whites. Combining racist images with modern identities and pleasures, the black actors of the Old Plantation connected the South with the ascendant commercial modernity of the northern metropolises.63 While whites interpreted the songs, dances, cakewalks, and stump speaking as the “events of the happy days long gone,” to some black fairgoers such entertainment could be seen and heard as something far different. The “weird and guttural sounds” accompanying the “scraping of the fiddle and the old banjo,” would be familiar to some black southerners not as anachronisms but as modern sounds that spoke of the alienation of life in the Jim Crow South.64 Quartet singing and the cakewalk came directly from African American cultural sites and were popular among working-class blacks. Compared to the performances of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the syncopated rhythms of the Old Plantation (p.58) presented a sophisticated sound grounded in the here-and-now realities of racial oppression, exploitation, and, to be sure, commercial possibilities. Based on evidence from other plantation shows and amusements, we can be certain that the sounds of the Old Plantation were not simply white fantasy but the real and developing sounds of African American popular music and culture. Such rhythms and sounds would, by the early twentieth century, come to define the sonic landscape of modernity and the New Negro movement. Far from a premodern people locked in a rural economy, the southern black performers of the Old Plantation were a modern people exploiting the racist undercurrents of American society to their own advantage even if middle-class whites and blacks heard only primitive rhythms and sounds.65

The Old Plantation made clear the way in which the black elite could lose control of a defined image of blackness in the anarchy of the consumer marketplace. These multiple performances of blackness were prescient of a new commercial and public racial identity. As much as the Old Plantation was a performance, so too was the black elite’s participation in the fairs a performance of white-inscribed standards of acceptable behavior. If the Negro Building and the black elite’s adoption of bourgeois comportments hid the constraints placed on African Americans, the Old Plantation brought them to the fore. The Old Plantation, Dahomey Village, and the Negro Buildings were contested sites in a black public sphere closely monitored by whites.66

Confronted with these multiple representations of blackness, the Negro Buildings aimed to uplift members of the race viewed as lagging behind. The exhibits were not just evidence of racial improvement; they served as instructional tools for those not as “evolved” as black business leaders and clergymen. I. Garland Penn hoped that the exhibits would “stimulate the race in its progress.” The Savannah Tribune, a black newspaper, reported that the exhibits were a “splendid object lesson to the less industrious and intelligent.” Some suggested that the exhibits could even jump-start the evolutionary process among lower-class African Americans: “The natural progression of evolution in many cases is far too slow,” wrote the Indianapolis Freeman of the Tennessee Centennial’s Negro Building, “and a little forced culture is nothing amiss.”67 According to this logic, evolution among people of African descent had moved at different paces. For the black commissioners, it was clear that they had evolved to a point where they were equal to whites and should be treated as such. The presentation of the Negro Building emphasized a Lamarckian view of human development in which the material advancement of the African American clergy and business class was evidence for their new status as a separate race from Africans and perhaps even a black lower-class. Two years after the Tennessee Centennial, the Reverend Henry Parks (AME) published Africa: The Problem of (p.59) a New Century in which he argued that Africans and African Americans were distinct races of people. Replicating the narrative of the Negro Buildings, Parks suggested that African Americans had evolved due to their three-hundred-year contact with Anglo-America, while Africans had remained trapped in the past.68

The commissioners and black press also asserted racial progress through the language of manhood. In the nineteenth century, the supposed manliness of a people was essential to its claims to civilization. The gendered nature of black participation at the expositions allowed African Americans to claim civilized status.69 In an editorial, the Indianapolis Freeman explicitly connected civilization and African American manliness at the Tennessee Centennial. “Let the cultured Negro array himself,” wrote the newspaper, “with all the truths of science and the power which knowledge gives . . . and demonstrate in his manly bearing the outlines of his unimpeachable dusky brow.” Richard Hill’s management of the Negro Department was referred to as “every inch manly and full of race love.” Likewise, Atlanta’s Negro Building was characterized as a “manly effort.” Asserting the Negro Building as an embodiment of African American manhood, it connected to a prevalent view that linked manliness and civilization.70

If the Negro Buildings were representative of racial advancement, then black fairgoers were viewed as living lessons of African American development. Those who successfully navigated the fairs established themselves as “New Negroes” with a fully modern persona that suggested their ability to transcend history and enter the ranks of a middle class. Faced with an ideology of progress on one side and degeneration on the other, the historian Walter Weare contends that southern African American professionals and clergy were given “little choice except to believe passionately that the race, like Washington himself, was going to go up from slavery, that history was on their side, that the invisible hand of Darwin would favor the man farthest down, whose greater struggle rendered him the fittest.”71 By adopting the rhetoric of progress based on a racial science that excluded them, the southern black middle class and elite behind the Negro exhibits lent credence to both an intra- and inter-racial hierarchy.

Although the expositions were discriminatory places, they were not officially segregated; and their organizers worked hard to make it known that the black community was welcome. At the very moment that de jure segregation was sweeping the South, members of the southern New Negro movement envisioned the entire exposition and not just the Negro Building as an important stage to present the progress made since Emancipation. Nonetheless, black southerners participated at whites’ pleasure, ensuring that whites never gave up their power in the region’s racial system. On the exposition grounds, (p.60) white southerners presented an image of peaceful coexistence between the races, one that many African Americans were quick to utilize.72

Not all African Americans were in favor, though. In March 1897 the Nashville Citizen, an African American newspaper, called for a boycott of the Tennessee Centennial. But on the whole, southern black opposition was muted. The main hostility came from the northern black press led by the Cleveland Gazette. As early as February 1895 the Gazette called on African Americans to boycott the Atlanta exposition. Principally, the Gazette feared that the fair was a setup to prove the inferiority of African Americans. When it became clear that the exposition had every intention of presenting a creditable black exhibit, the Gazette emphasized the fair’s Jim Crow character. Along with the Washington Bee, the Gazette ran stories of discrimination at the Atlanta exposition. Two years later, the Cleveland Gazette was again the main opponent of the Tennessee Centennial. Like in Atlanta, the Gazette viewed the Negro Building as an extension of Jim Crow.73

Black opposition to the Negro Departments came less from rival ideological camps than from regional experiences that influenced the social and political agendas of their proponents. Throughout the run of the expositions the African American committees expressed exasperation with the northern black press, chalking the negative reviews of the Negro Buildings up to ignorance. The Freeman, reporting on the lack of northern interest in Atlanta, maintained that “[q]uite a deal of ignorance was shown by some Northern colored people regarding the South—they seem to fancy it was inhabited solely be barbarians. It is to be hoped that some of them will go there and find a black face is treated no worse there than in the Capital City of the country.”74 It is unsurprising that northern black newspapers took exception to the Negro Buildings. Better off socially, economically, and politically, northern African Americans in the 1890s experienced a degree of freedom out of reach for many southern African Americans, and they judged those who corroborated with a racial system that so plainly exploited them.75

Black southerners were not insensitive to the accusation. Henry McNeal Turner made clear in his defense of the Negro Building that he was not a “white man’s nigger.” He condemned black northerners for not supporting the exposition because of the discrimination in the South. Noting that the Chicago world’s fair saw African Americans’ “Jim Crowed by the nation,” Turner suggested that they take every opportunity to assert their worth and self-respect. “If I had to choose between railroad degradation and the exposition degradation,” argued Turner, “I would infinitely prefer the latter, for the exposition allows me an opportunity to show to the world that I can be clean, mannerly, cultured and refined and deserve better treatment, and it is the surest way to (p.61) get it.” African Americans in the North were correct to argue that oppression in the South was intolerable, but what they might have failed to see was that the expositions offered a rare opportunity for black southerners to present a counter-program of race pride in a region and nation increasingly convinced they were degenerating.76

It is a given that African Americans faced discrimination going to and within the exposition grounds. In Atlanta, the People’s Advocate reported that black fairgoers had to make a “bee line for the Negro Building” or be “grossly insulted.” The Advocate went on to report that black people should attend the exposition only if they want to see signs reading: “ ‘For whites only,’ or ‘No niggers and dogs allowed’ [and] if they want to be humiliated and their man and womanhood crushed out.”77 Many black northerners understood that a trip south put them in potential danger and thereby made a good calculation not to visit the fairs. That African Americans had to ride segregated rail cars upon entering the South “will keep from the expositions thousands of northern colored people,” reported the Kansas City Topics.78 The Southern Railroad, perhaps seeing an opportunity, frequently advertised that African Americans would be “treated well” as they traveled to Atlanta. “Every convenience is offered by this road to the colored people,” stated the railroad, but few black northerners took up the offer.79 Others took the expositions as an opportunity to agitate against segregation and discrimination. The Chicago Conservator demanded that the Tennessee Centennial executive end the discrimination against African Americans on the railroad in time for the fair. T. Thomas Fortune and attendees of the National Afro-American Press Association held an afternoon session in the Cotton States’ auditorium titled “How to Create Friendly Relations with the Southern People.” The Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade concluded that the exposition “will do more to break up this diabolical outrage than anything that has ever happened.”80

In contrast to the Cleveland Gazette, other black newspapers were in favor of the expositions and reported on their “most enjoyable feature”: the “absence of race prejudice.”81 When the Cotton States opened, Booker T. Washington was not the only black representative at the fair. As the exposition executives marched with the US Army through the streets of Atlanta to the fairgrounds, they were accompanied by the Second Battalion of the Colored Infantry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel F. H. Crumbley and the Lincoln Guards, an African American militia from Macon, Georgia. Increasingly denied a strong public military presence, black soldiers now made their presence known.82 The New York World reported that in Atlanta “[t]he people swarmed into the buildings—black and white, Georgia Colonels and all.” Black southerners attended in decent numbers throughout the course of the expositions, peaking (p.62) during congresses and on days devoted to African Americans. From November 11 through the end of that month, the Cotton States hosted “colored congresses” devoted to the military, religion, farmers, businesses, doctors, lawyers, and temperance. On December 26 and 27, the American Association of Colored Educators held their annual conference at the fair followed by a “Colored Teachers’ Day.” Penn expected some fifty thousand African Americans to attend the exposition during the series of congresses. They may not have attended the fairs at the same rate as whites, but African Americans were indeed a presence at both expositions.83

To combat stories of racial prejudice, I. Garland Penn frequently emphasized the openness of the Cotton States. To a question regarding the People’s Advocate’s report of discrimination and segregation from the assistant managing editor of the Toronto Christian Guardian, Penn responded, “There are no such signs on exhibit buildings . . . and the colored people are welcome to all buildings, and reports to the contrary are only circulated by designing men of our race to prevent an attendance of colored people. . . . The fact is the colored people are treated exceptionally good (just as their exhibit and demeanor merits)—far better than many expected.” With a clear stake in the success of the exposition, Penn included the testimony of five prominent black Atlantans who all reported that they attended the exposition without problems. He also suggested, however, that only a certain class of African Americans—those whose “exhibit and demeanor merits”—could expect to be treated well.84 Alice Bacon seconded Penn’s assertions, commenting that “[w]hile there is no social mingling of the two races, they met and observed each other on the fair grounds, in the street cars, at the railway stations, at public meetings, in their walks about the city streets. They shopped in the same stores, they looked at and discussed the same exhibits and they exchanged ideas now and then as they passed each other that produced their effect on both sides.”85 The Savannah Tribune reported that “negro visitors can enter any building that is open to whites, and there is no limit to their enjoyment of the exhibits and side shows.”86 In Atlanta, for a brief moment, the color line appeared fluid.

The Tennessee Centennial was also accused of segregation. In response, the African American journalist John Edward Bruce, under the penname “Bruce Grit,” published a description of a visit to the Centennial recounting the open nature of the fair:

I visited every building on the grounds, especially those to which local kickers said negroes would not be admitted, viz, the Woman’s building and the Auditorium. At both these places I was treated courteously, as I was in all other buildings I visited. It was said also (p.63) that negroes could not buy refreshing drinks in the Agricultural building, where there is a soda water fountain. I went over there, bought soda water and drank it on the spot. The roof didn’t fall in, and nobody called me “nigra” either. I had a similar refreshment in the Machinery building, where I also partook of some delightful sweet cider, which was served to me by a white woman of tender years and prepossessing face, who politely requested me to call again.87

While discrimination and segregation did occur at the fairs—bathrooms and the infirmary were divided by race at the Tennessee Centennial—the evidence also suggests that there was a degree of movement across the color line. African American visitors, side by side with whites, participated in a Jim Crowed modernity.88

On the fairgrounds, however, African American visitors were always under the gaze of whites and were carefully watched for signs of progress or degeneration. The ability to adopt middle class sensibilities was paramount to African Americans’ assertion that they should be treated as equal partners in American citizenship. African American newspapers commented on the behavior and dress of black fairgoers. The Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade professed, “The easy, graceful, polite attention of ladies and gentlemen in charge of the exhibits were among the things to be very highly commended.”89 Charles R. Douglass, son of the recently deceased Frederick Douglass, emphasized the importance of middle-class African Americans at the expositions. “A large gathering of well dressed, intelligent and well behaved colored people,” said Douglass, “cannot but make a favorable impression among those who know us as menials in rags and ignorance.” Such an impression, Douglass suggested, could improve whites’ treatment of a certain class of African Americans.90

In Nashville behavior was a marker of racial advancement. The Indianapolis Freeman warned black fairgoers they would be watched and should behave accordingly: “The thousands of our people . . . should conduct themselves prudently, because we are on dress-parade.” Black fairgoers took the Freeman’s advice: “The behavior of the colored people upon the grounds,” wrote Charles H. Stewart, “the immense attendance and the good natured humor displayed in every incident and during every hour of the day reflect with credit upon the manners, the patriotism and the character of the colored people of this city and State.” Recognizing that they would be scrutinized, many African Americans took extra steps to ensure they adopted middle-class comportments and thereby confirm their civilizational status.91

(p.64) For white observers in the North and South the tone taken was one of paternalistic pleasure at African Americans’ ability to overcome their supposedly disorderly natures. Remarking on the six thousand African Americans who came to Nashville for “Negro Employees Day,” the Nashville Banner reported “a lack of boisterousness” among visiting black fairgoers. “It became so noticeable that it was the subject of general comment at the depot. A better-behaved or more orderly crowd of people never passed through the gates.” The New York Commissioners noted that the “negroes are another never-failing subject for the observation and the study of Northern and foreign visitors. They abound everywhere.” The commissioners explained: “As a rule the negroes are as happy-go-lucky and careless as ever, and as it is their nature to be, but they are not so ragged or shiftless as they were a quarter of a century ago. They take a pardonable pride in their own building, and especially in their schools, and point to them as proofs of their ability to compete with their white neighbors if given a reasonable and fair opportunity.” In the minds of white observers, African American presentations of progress were the exceptions to the rule that confirmed as much as negated racial stereotypes.92

At least one member of the African American press was sensitive to the presence of the lower class. John Edward Bruce noted that while there was a “well-dressed and well-ordered crowd” at the Tennessee Centennial, there were also African Americans who were “bumptious, overbearing, odoriferous and greasy in public places.”93 But here, Bruce’s objections seem out of character. He later became the personal secretary of Marcus Garvey and was often a defender of poverty stricken African Americans. That Bruce was complaining about poor black fairgoers suggests the stakes for African Americans at the South’s expositions. The appearances and smells of the black working class threatened the images of progress performed by “New Negroes” at the fair. Like their white counterparts, black fairgoers were encouraged to behave according to middle-class sensibilities and stood out for failing to do so.94

When Booker T. Washington stood before a full auditorium at the Cotton States and International Exposition and proclaimed, “In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” The truth of the exposition presented a more complicated reality.95 While the Negro Buildings surely represented Washington’s proverbial “hand,” African American fairgoers suggested that they may not be the easily separated “fingers” that he claimed. In their dress and behavior, in their exhibits of agricultural, industrial, and educational growth, and in the adoption of the language of evolution, southern African Americans presented a case for black progress and civilization. Their exhibits in the Negro Building (p.65) were more than representations of advancement; they were “object lessons” that advocated for a new appreciation and understanding of black life.

In the late-nineteenth century museum, visitors considered an object on its own terms and then in the context of surrounding objects. In the case of the Atlanta and Nashville expositions, the Negro Building in toto was contrasted with the other presentations of progress and primitiveness scattered throughout the expositions. The buildings provided a space for African Americans to assert themselves as contemporaries, as “New Negroes,” integrating themselves into the presentations of progress found at the fairs and contest images of black degeneration. The buildings offered a present of peace and goodwill and a future of harmonious relations with whites, while ignoring the racial turmoil and violence engulfing the South. African Americans in the New South presented a southern interpretation of black life and offered their own dreams of the future. In doing so they laid claim to a language of civilization that they were often excluded from.


(1.) L. W. B., “Is He a New Negro?” Chicago Inter Ocean, Sept. 28, 1895, from “A News Item in the Chicago Inter Ocean,” in The Booker T. Washington Papers, vol. 4, ed. Louis R. Harlan (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), 34–44, 41 (first quote), 40 (second quote). See also Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States, 135–36.

(2.) Ibid., 41–42.

(3.) On the way in which festive events like expositions are pluralistic and open space for dialogue, see David Guss, The Festive State: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism as Cultural Performance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 8–11. See also Conn, Do Museums, 10.

(4.) H. R. Butler, “The Colored Exhibit,” Atlanta Constitution, Apr. 3, 1895.

(6.) Quoted in George Fredrickson, Black Image, 251.

(7.) For the ways in which African Americans embraced racial progress and science, see Baker, From Savage to Negro; and Brantlinger, Dark Vanishings.

(8.) Robert Norrell, Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2011), 128. On African American support for technical education, see James Levy, “Forging African American Minds: Black Pragmatism, ‘Intelligent Labor,’ and a New Look at Industrial Education, 1879–1900,” American Nineteenth-Century History 17, no. 1 (2016): 43–73.

(9.) On the ways in which Washington’s Atlanta Compromise reflected the Negro Building and the Atlanta exposition’s ideology of progress and race relations, see Norrell, Up from History, 122–35, esp. 125–26; and Weare, “New Negroes,” 93.

(10.) Alice M. Bacon, The Negro and the Atlanta Exposition (Baltimore: Published by the Trustees of the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute, 1896), 11. On the ways ideology became unbalanced at expositions, see Kramer, “Making Concessions,” 75–114, esp. 102. For work on the Negro Buildings in Atlanta, see Perdue, Race and the (p.133) Atlanta Cotton States, 7–52; and Wilson, Negro Building, 30–83. On Nashville’s building, see Harvey, World’s Fairs, 269–75.

(12.) Ibid., 52–55; Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, eds., The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition, ed. Robert Rydell (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); and Christopher Reed, All the World Is Here!: The Black Presence at White City (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000).

(13.) Cooper, Cotton States, 8; Justi, Official History, 193. On Ida B. Wells’s efforts to publicize the horrors of lynching and northerners’ response, see Bederman, Manliness and Civilization, 45–76. On New South boosters’ embrace of African American progress and purported racial harmony, see Frederickson, Black Image in the White Mind, 215–16; and Gaston, New South Creed, 117–50.

(14.) Cooper, Cotton States, 24. Gaines was “one of black America’s leading apostles of the New South creed” and a good friend of Washington. See James Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 86.

(15.) Cooper, Cotton States, 24; and Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (New York: Penguin Classics, 2008), 128–29.

(16.) Cooper, Cotton States, 27 (first quote), 28 (second quote).

(17.) Bender, American Abyss, 71 (quote). See also Carlton, Mill and Town.

(19.) Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition: Opens at Nashville May 1st, 1897 and Continues Six Months (Nashville: Brandon, 1897), 20.

(21.) Hon. W. Y. Atkinson, “The Atlanta Exposition,” North American Review 161, no. 467 (Oct. 1895): 393.

(22.) Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States, 12; and Fredrickson, Black Image in the White Mind, 215–16. See also Gaston, New South Creed, 117–50. Lynching data taken from Elizabeth Hines, “Project HAL: Historical American Lynching Data Collection Project,” accessed Feb. 12, 2015, http://people.uncw.edu/hinese/HAL/HAL%20Web%20Page.htm.

(23.) New York at the Cotton States, 278–79.

(24.) Handbook to the Cotton States and International Exposition: Being a Faithful Account of What a Representative of the Brooklyn Eagle Saw When He Visited the Fair (Atlanta: Brooklyn Eagle Information Bureau, 1895), 5. Smithsonian National Museum of American History Library, Washington, DC.

(25.) On expositions and museum spaces as cultural power, see Bennett, Birth of the Museum, 2, 10, and 23; and Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 33. See also Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality with Two Lectures by and an Interview with Michel Foucault (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); and Wiebe, Search for Order.

(26.) Official Catalogue of the Cotton States, 134; Justi, Official History, 195. The committeepersons who appear in H. F. Kletzing and W. H. Crogman, Progress of the (p.134) Race: Or, the Remarkable Advancement of the Afro American (Atlanta: J. L. Nicholls, 1898) were members of these professions.

(27.) For African Americans’ engagement with the discourse of progress, see Michele Mitchell, Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Race Destiny After Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent; Kevin Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Martin Summers, Manliness and Its Discontents: The Black Middle Class and the Transformation of Masculinity, 1900–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); and Dorsey, To Build Our Lives Together.

(28.) “Atlanta Exposition,” Leavenworth (KS) Herald, Feb. 9, 1895.

(29.) “Untitled,” Leavenworth (KS) Herald, Mar. 9, 1895.

(30.) Butler, “The Colored Exhibit,” Atlanta Constitution, Apr. 3, 1895.

(31.) I. Garland Penn, “Awakening of a Race: The Moral and Industrial Development of the Negro as Shown at the Exposition,” Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 22, 1895.

(32.) For more on Penn, see I. Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (Springfield: Wiley, 1891); Cooper, Cotton States, 58; Joanne K. Harrison and Grant Harrison, The Life and Times of Irvine Garland Penn (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2000), 17–37; Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition, 22; and Wilson, Negro Building, 30, 51. See also I. Garland Penn, “The Progress of the Afro-American Since Emancipation,” The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago: n.p., 1893), 44–64.

(33.) Atlanta Exposition and South, 30 (first quote); Penn, “Awakening of a Race,” 24 (second and third quotes). Mabel O. Wilson interprets Atlanta’s Negro Building’s pediment along with Penn and Alice Bacon’s commentary surrounding it as casting African Americans as a rural people with “no intellectual aspirations whatsoever.” It is clear, however, that in the minds of their organizers the Negro Buildings were far more urban, progressive, and future-oriented than Wilson has it, see Wilson, Negro Building, 63–64. On sharecropping and debt peonage, see Pete Daniel, Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972); Leon Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York: Vintage, 1979); Edward Royce, The Origins of Southern Sharecropping (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993); Michael Wayne, The Reshaping of Plantation Society: The Natchez District, 1860–1880 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); and Gavin Wright, Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy since the Civil War (New York: Basic Books, 1986).

(34.) New York at the Cotton States, 198.

(35.) Rev. J. W. E. Bowden, “An Appeal to the King.”

(36.) On the abolitionist image, see Johan Stauffer, “Creating an Image in Black: The Power of Abolition Pictures,” in Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890–1930, ed. W. Fitzhugh Brundage (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 66–94, esp. 70.

(37.) Dr. Hammond, “A Race Triumph,” Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade, Nov. 23, 1895.

(38.) L. W. B. “Is He a New Negro?”

(39.) “Down in the Negro Building,” Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 29, 1895.

(40.) “Negro Day,” Leavenworth Herald, Dec. 28, 1895.

(41.) Charles W. Kindrick, “The Negro Building at the Exposition,” New Orleans Picayune, Oct. 22, 1895.

(42.) “The Atlanta Exposition,” New Orleans Picayune, Sept. 19, 1895.

(43.) All Roads Lead to Nashville, Microfilm Reel 127, no. 15, SNMAH.

(44.) “The Tennessee Exposition,” Indianapolis Freeman, Nov. 28, 1896.

(45.) Official Catalogue of the Tennessee Centennial, 57.

(46.) Justi, Official History, 193 (first and second quotes); Lovett, African-American History, 235–36; and James C. Napier, “Letter to the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Centennial Company City,” Feb. 24, 1890–Aug. 31, 1896, in James C. Napier Papers, Special Collections and Archives, Fisk University, Nashville.

(47.) For a biography and outline of Councill’s political views, see Norrell, Up from History, 87–88.

(48.) Justi, Official History, 195–98 (quotes on 197). See also Harvey, World’s Fairs, 272.

(49.) Chas. H. Stewart, “The Negro’s Day,” Indianapolis Freeman, June 5, 1897.

(50.) “A Commencement Address: Delivered by Hon. Isaiah T. Montgomery,” Indianapolis Freeman, Aug. 17, 1895. For more on Montgomery, see Janet Sharp Hermann, The Pursuit of a Dream (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), esp. chap. 7.

(51.) Cooper, Cotton States, 57 (quotes). See also “Progress of a Race,” Atlanta Constitution, Jan. 20, 1895.

(52.) “The New Negro at Our Show,” Atlanta Constitution, July 28, 1895 (first and second quotes); Lizzie C. Williams, “The Athens of the South,” Indianapolis Freeman, June 26, 1897 (third quote).

(53.) “Tenn. Exposition: Magnificent Exhibit Made by the Afro-Americans,” Saint Paul and Minneapolis Appeal, Aug. 14, 1897 (quote). See also Larson, “Three Southern World’s Fairs,” 149.

(54.) “Riot On the Midway,” New Orleans Picayune, Jan. 3, 1896.

(55.) “Her Gates Ajar,” Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 18, 1895 (first quote); Maude Andrews, “This Is Woman’s Busy Day,” Atlanta Constitution, Dec. 8, 1895 (second quote). See also “A Day at The Fair,” Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 27, 1895. For the ways in which ethnographic villages served as racial measuring sticks, see Kruger, “ ‘White Cities,’ ” 19–45, esp. 21.

(56.) “The Colored Race at Atlanta,” Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), Dec. 7, 1895.

(57.) Maude Andrews, “The Atlanta Exposition,” Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated 81, no. 2093 (Sept. 26, 1895): 199. Given Andrews racial predilections, this story was probably meant to be humorous in that the sophisticated African American probably observed a difference between himself and Africans that did not exist.

(58.) James Campbell, Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787–2005 (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), 144. On Henry McNeal Turner’s complicated and sometimes tortured logic on African American emigration, see ibid., 123, 133–34.

(59.) The 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition’s guide emphasized the “southerness” and “authenticity” of the Old Plantation act. Richard H. Barry, Snap Shots on the Midway of the Pan-Am-Expo at Buffalo (Buffalo: Robert Allan Reid, 1901), 126.

(60.) Karen Sotiropoulos, Staging Race: Black Performers in Turn of the Century America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 22–23. See also Roger Allan Hall, “‘Black America’: Nate Salsbury’s ‘Afro-American Exhibition,’” Educational Theatre Journal 29, no. 1 (Mar. 1977): 49–60.

(61.) Official Catalogue of the Tennessee Centennial, 161 (first and second quotes); and Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 101 (third quote).

(62.) “Exposition’s Climax,” Baltimore Sun, June 19, 1897 (first, second, and third quotes); Maude Andrews, “The Midway at the Atlanta Exposition,” Harper’s Weekly 39, no. 2023 (Nov. 23, 1895): 1109 (last quote).

(63.) James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990). On the multifaceted nature of plantation shows and other forms of black minstrel culture, see Sotiropoulos, Staging Race, 2. For black public culture’s “hidden transcripts,” see Robin Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: Free Press, 1994), 7–8, 32–44, 77–79.

(64.) Official Catalogue of the Tennessee Centennial, 161 (first and second quotes); Justi, Official History, 209 (third and fourth quotes).

(65.) Barbara Webb, “Authentic Possibilities: Plantation Performances of the 1890s,” Theatre Journal 56, no. 1 (Mar. 2004): 65, 70–73; Miller, Segregating Sound; Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff, “‘They Cert’ly Sound Good to Me’: Sheet Music, Southern Vaudeville, and the Commercial Ascendancy of the Blues,” in Ramblin’ On My Mind: New Perspective on the Blues, ed. David Evans (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 49–104; Abbott and Seroff, Ragged But Right: Black Traveling Shows, “Coon Songs,” and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2007); and Ronald Radano, Lying up a Nation: Race and Black Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). For the way in which the black and white middle class may not have fully heard the performances of the Old Plantation, see Clare Corbould, “Streets, Sounds and Identity in Interwar Harlem,” Journal of Social History 40 (Summer 2007): 859–94.

(66.) On the consumer marketplace as a site for multiple African American identities, see Davarian Baldwin, “Introduction: New Negroes Forging a New World,” in Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance Beyond Harlem, ed. Baldwin and Minkah Makalani (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 1–27; and Davarian Baldwin, Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).

(67.) “The New Negro at Our Show,” Atlanta Constitution, July 28, 1895 (first quote); “The Negro in Atlanta,” Savannah Tribune, July 20, 1895 (second quote); “Anent the Centennial,” Indianapolis Freeman, June 5, 1897 (third quote).

(68.) On Henry Parks’s Africa, see Mitchell, Righteous Propagation, 54–55. Kevin Gaines has also noted the pervasiveness of evolutionary thought, heredity science, and eugenics among the black elite. Gaines, Uplifting the Race, 81–82.

(69.) See Bederman, Manliness and Civilization; Summers, Manliness and Its Discontents; and Angela Hornsby-Gutting, Black Manhood and Community Building in North Carolina, 1900–1930 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009), 131.

(70.) M. A. Majors, “Nashville Tennessee,” Indianapolis Freeman, May 29, 1897 (first quote); W. H. Councill, “The Tennessee Centennial. The Negro Department Compared with the Atlanta Department—the Chief and His Prompters,” Indianapolis Freeman, Apr. 3, 1897 (second quote); “A Huge Assembly,” Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 26, 1895 (third quote).

(71.) Weare, “New Negroes,” 93.

(72.) Following some members of the black press, historians have interpreted the expositions’ to be segregated spaces. See Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940 (New York: Vintage, 1995), 147–51; Rydell, All the World’s a Fair, 85; and Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States, 31.

(73.) “Untitled,” Kansas City American Citizen, Mar. 12, 1897; “The Exposition a Farce,” Cleveland Gazette, Feb. 9, 1895; “They Do Draw It,” Cleveland Gazette, Dec. 7, 1895; “The Bee Tells the Truth,” Washington Bee, Nov. 30, 1895; and “Tennessee Centennial,” Cleveland Gazette, Apr. 10, 1897.

(74.) “Washington City News,” Indianapolis Freeman, June 8, 1893.

(75.) The Cleveland Gazette made this point a month prior to the Tennessee Centennial. “Tennessee Centennial,” Cleveland Gazette, Apr. 10, 1897.

(76.) Bishop H. M. Turner, “To Colored People,” Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade, Feb. 9, 1895. This appeal was published in a number of black newspapers as well as the Atlanta Constitution.

(77.) People’s Advocate quoted in “The Negro at the Atlanta Exposition,” Literary Digest 12 (Nov. 2, 1895): 6. See also Weare, “New Negroes,” 111; and Rydell, All the World’s a Fair, 85.

(78.) “Negro Expositions,” Kansas City Topics, Aug. 8, 1895; and “No Negro Exhibit,” Kansas City Topics, Aug. 22, 1895.

(79.) “The Southern Railroad,” Washington Bee, Oct. 12, 1895; “The Southern Railroad to Atlanta,” Washington Bee, Oct. 26, 1895.

(80.) Dr. Hammond, “A Race Triumph,” Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade, Nov. 23, 1895; Kansas City American Citizen, Feb. 12, 1897; and “Negro Editors Meet,” Atlanta Constitution, Nov. 22, 1895.

(81.) Chas. H. Stewart, “The Tennessee Centennial a Visit to the Sunny South,” Indianapolis Freeman, May 1, 1897 (quotes); “The Negro Day,” ibid., June 5, 1897. Indianapolis Freeman, Salt Lake City Broad Ax, Charlotte Observer, Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade, Savannah Tribune, Kansas City Topics, Baltimore Afro-American, and the Leavenworth (KS) Herald all ran positive reviews of the Negro exhibits and buildings.

(82.) “Miles of Moving Soldiers,” Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 19, 1895. On the importance of military display in maintaining black rights see Kathleen Clark, Defining (p.138) Moments: African American Commemoration and Political Culture in the South, 1863–1913 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

(83.) James Creelman, “South’s New Epoch,” New York World, Sept. 18, 1895, quoted in “An Article in the New York World”; Harlan, The Booker T. Washington Papers, 13; and “The New Negro At Our Show,” Atlanta Constitution, July 28, 1895. It is difficult to determine, with any degree of accuracy, the number of African Americans who took in the fairs. The Tennessee Centennial’s Official History noted, “The attendance of negroes on special days, and in fact at all times, was large.” The Savannah Tribune reported at the Cotton States that “attendance of the colored people is fair, especially those of other states. The colored citizens of Atlanta are doing much to solve the Negro question by conducting various kinds of paying business.” The Baltimore Sun reported that twenty thousand African Americans attended the Tennessee Centennial on “Negro Day.” Justi, Official History, 198, 398; “Saying About Atlanta,” Savannah Tribune, Dec. 7, 1895; and “Colored People’s Work,” Baltimore Sun, Aug. 16, 1897.

(84.) “Negro Editors Meet,” Atlanta Constitution, Nov. 22, 1895.

(85.) Bacon, Negro, 23.

(86.) “The Negro at the Exposition,” Savannah Tribune, Nov. 2, 1895. Stewart M. Lewis, an African American editor from Washington, DC, told the Constitution that “I went into every building and studied the exhibits. Nowhere was discourtesy shown me. The negro is treated as well here as he is treated anywhere.” “The Colored Press,” Atlanta Constitution, Nov. 8, 1895.

(87.) Bruce Grit, “Colored Men in Business,” Salt Lake City Broad Ax, Sept. 18, 1897.

(88.) On segregated toilet and hospital facilities see H. R. Butler, “What the Negro Is Doing,” Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 27, 1895; Official Guide to The Tennessee Centennial, 11; and Justi, Official History, 397.

(89.) Dr. Hammond, “A Race Triumph,” Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade, Nov. 23, 1895.

(90.) Quoted in Bacon, Negro, 23–24.

(91.) M. A. Majors, “Nashville Tennessee,” Indianapolis Freeman, May 29, 1897 (first quote); Charles H. Stewart, “Crowned with Success,” Indianapolis Freeman, June 12, 1897 (second quote). On the importance of public appearance to the black middle class, see Mitchell, Righteous Propagation, 115.

(92.) “Big Crowds [illegible] of Negro [illegible],” Nashville Banner, Aug. 25, 1897 (first quote); and New York at the Cotton States, 278 (second and third quotes). On the exhibitionary complex of expositions, see Bennett, Birth of the Museum, 61.

(94.) Ralph L. Crowder, John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-trained Historian of the African Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2004), 6.