There, he stayed trapped in an iron cage with an orangutan while hundreds of people watched.
Now, 114 years later, the organization that runs the zoo is apologizing.
“We deeply regret that many people and generations have been hurt by these actions or by our failure previously to publicly condemn and denounce them,” WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper wrote.
“We recognize that overt and systemic racism persists, and our institution must play a greater role to confront it.”
Benga, who was from the Mbuti people of present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, was put on display at the zoo’s Monkey House for several days during the week of September 8th, 1906, according to the statement. He was released after local Black ministers expressed their outrage and demanded his freedom.
He would only have short periods of time outside. After a week, Benga started to resist and threaten attendants, which contributed to his release, Newkirk wrote in her op-ed.
When he was finally freed, Reverend James Gordon took him in at an orphanage he ran in Weeksville, Brooklyn, according to WCS. Benga, who was “unable to return home,” died by suicide ten years later, the WCS said.
The organization also denounced “the eugenics-based, pseudoscientific racism, writings, and philosophies” that were advanced by two of its founders, Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn, Sr.
Grant’s book, “The Passing of the Great Race,” was used as a defense during the Nuremberg trials. Grant and Osborn also helped found the American Eugenics Society in 1926, according to the statement.
The organization also noted that they are hiring a diversity officer to work with leadership to ensure their current organization is working towards their diversity, equity, and inclusion plan implemented in 2019.
“Today I challenge myself and my colleagues to do better,” Samper wrote, “and to never look away whenever and wherever injustice occurs.”